CHICAGO – Against all odds, Charlotte FC found a way to come back from a 0 – 2 deficit to beat Eastern conference rivals, Chicago Fire. The Crown flipped the 3 – 2 score line that they lost to the last time they faced the Fire to get their revenge and remain in the playoff hunt.
Chicago were able to get the early lead by doing what they do best – playing in transition. A loose touch by Karol Świderski initiated the Chicago Fire counterattack that led to the eventual opening goal in the 3rd minute. After an initial shot was blocked, the ball bounced back to Mauricio Pineda who sliced the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
Just 2 minutes later, Świderski had a chance to offset his mistake from a shot that rebounded off Chicago goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. It landed in front of the Pole with a wide-open net ahead of him but an awkward bounce of the ball prevented a clean strike.
The match was relatively even but the Fire had the better chances of the half and they put away another one of them in the 30th minute. It was a well-built goal by Chicago starting all the way from the back until it reached Jhon Durán who was clinical in his finish.
At the start of the half, Charlotte got a temporary injection of hope in their quest to mount the comeback when Świderski scored from outside the box in the 50th minute. It was temporary because it was called back due to a questionable VAR decision.
However, the third time was the charm for Świderski who finally managed to get his goal off an assertive finish from a scramble off a corner kick in the 68th minute. It marked the start of an almost movie-script-like comeback for the Crown.
Charlotte’s second goal in the 76th minute was scored by none other than new signing Nuno Santos in only his second appearance for the club. It was a long ball from goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina that found McKinze Gaines on the touchline who fired the ball into the box and found Santos for the equalizer.
In the dying moments of the match, it looked as if Charlotte had earned a hard-fought draw, but they were destined for more. McKinze Gaines was once again involved in the goal when he hit a cross from Yordy Reyna off the crossbar that came into Świderski ‘s possession in the box but he still had a lot to do. Some fancy footwork from the Pole opened up the space for him to score the game-winner.
After going down in the 3rd minute, then conceding the second goal in the second half, followed by their first goal being disallowed, it seemed Charlotte had everything going against them. It would have been easy for the circumstances to deflate the morale of the team, but the opposite happened.
The team was still filled with belief that they could do the unthinkable, come back away from home. Something they hadn’t done all season long. Even after the team scored the equalizer, they continued fighting until the very end which was rewarded with three points.
Interim head coach Christian Lattanzio has harped about staying mentally strong throughout matches in his tenure and this match epitomized just that. Timely substitutions and a fighting spirit provided Charlotte FC with a much-needed three points.