As the most crucial match of the year for Charlotte FC approaches, their captain, Ashley Westwood, underscores the importance of Charlotte's upcoming clash with D.C. United scheduled for Saturday, September 16th, at 7:30 pm.
“They're all big at this stage of the season. The main thing for us is doing what we did the last three games because I thought we were absolutely excellent,” said Westwood. “So, the way we played, we dominated two of the best teams in the league. We can take great confidence from that.
“But we're not getting away from the fact that it's a huge game. It could probably end up deciding the playoffs, so it's huge for us. We just have to focus on what we do.”
D.C. United currently occupies the 9th position, just above the playoff cutoff, with Charlotte trailing closely behind by a mere three points and still has two games in hand. This advantageous situation for Charlotte stems from their recent return to MLS action, where they faced tough opponents such as LAFC, Orlando City, and Nashville SC, managing to secure five valuable points in the process. Going head-to-head with such formidable competition has instilled the team with an added dose of confidence as they approach this upcoming match.
“Performance wise, the way we’ve played, we're going into the weekend with great confidence. It's put us in a great position to really have a real push for the playoffs. We’re hopefully timing our form just right.”
The shift in form and momentum, as Westwood explains, can be primarily attributed to the team's dedicated efforts in cultivating a strong team culture, with its fruits becoming evident during the Leagues Cup.
“We've just clicked. I think it goes back to Leagues Cup. We were on the road a lot, and it started there. We were rooting for each other. Everyone was fighting for each other. There's a good feeling about the group and it comes from the lads who aren't playing, pushing the ones who are in the team. If you're in the team, you don't want to come out of the team. We've created a real culture and it's starting to show and it's finally paying off...”
Charlotte FC holds the advantage of hosting the crucial six-pointer at their home ground, the Bank of America Stadium. Throughout the season, Charlotte's loyal fanbase has consistently shown up, most recently with their numbers nearly reaching 40,000 during the match against LAFC. They are set to play a pivotal role as the 12th man in this high-stakes encounter. Westwood has this message for them:
“It's a huge match and I know we've opened up the top bowl. So, hopefully they come out in their numbers. Even the Wednesday [Orlando City] night game was incredible. We had the storm rolling in and it was raining but we still managed to get nearly 30,000. So, it was unbelievable support. You don't get that in England. To get that shows what a fan base we've got.
“...it's going to give us a great chance if we win on Saturday to really push for playoffs. The way they’ve come out and supported us, they've done it even at the start of the year when things weren't going our way. They've stuck with us and hopefully we can pay them back now.”