Leagues Cup

Charlotte FC Ride Dominant First Half Against Club Necaxa to Advance to Leagues Cup Round of 32

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Needing a win or draw to advance to the Round of 32, Charlotte FC rode a chaotic but ultimately dominant first half to a 4-1 victory over Liga MX side Club Necaxa. Bronico, Swiderski, Arfield, and Agyemang all contributed goals in the victory.

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Lindsey, Malanda, Privett, Byrne, Westwood, Bronico, Arfield, Jozwiak, Swiderski, Meram

Needing just a win or a draw in the final game of the South 4 group, Charlotte FC got off to the best start possible with a goal in the 6th minute.

Karol Swiderski had been lively dropping into midfield to orchestrate attacks and did so again on top of the eighteen-yard box. He spotted Brandt Bronico making a diagonal run in behind and slipped in a sublime pass across his body. Bronico collected himself with a good first touch and calmly chipped it over the onrushing Necaxa keeper to put the Crown up 1-0.

In the space of just four minutes after that opening goal, Necaxa thought they had found the equalizer twice. Both times, however, referee Guido Gonzalez Jr. disallowed the goals.

First, from a corner kick, the ball sailed into the far corner from a far post header, but Andres Colorado had prevented Nathan Byrne and Brandt Bronico from defending the play. The referee immediately whistled for a foul, standing by his decision in the face of all ten furious Necaxa field players.

Soon after, on another set piece, Necaxa was able to create chaos inside the box after the ball ricocheted off the post. Alfredo Gutierrez was immediately on hand to hammer home the rebound. After a lengthy review, it became clear that Facundo Batista was standing in Kristijan Kahlina’s line of vision, and the goal was eventually chalked off for offside. CLTFC fans will be very familiar with this obstruction offside ruling after Scott Arfield’s goal against FC Dallas last Saturday was disallowed due to Swiderski blocking the keeper’s line of sight.

The match never relented after that breathless opening ten minutes, as both teams traded strong challenges and quality chances in a very open, end-to-end game.

Bronico and Swiderski nearly reversed their connection in the 24th minute, as Bronico this time delivered a pinpoint cross to Swiderski’s head. The Polish striker was free on top of the six-yard box, but he powered his header directly at Necaxa keeper Raul Gudino.

In the 33rd minute, Necaxa attacking duo Batista and Maximiliano Silvera tried a series of audacious bicycle kicks. They both whiffed on two attempts in a row before Silvera somehow got a third bite at the apple. This time, he connected well, but Kahlina was up to the task with a great reaction save at close range.

Charlotte FC’s attacking and Polish duo, though, were the ones to find the next goal and double the advantage. After good buildup play from the Crown, Kamil Jozwiak found himself inside the box on the opposite side of the field from his right winger position. He picked up his head and picked out Swiderski, who read his teammate’s cross perfectly to knock it into the back of the net.

If the intensity of the game wasn’t already ratcheted up to ten, Nathan Byrne and Batista certainly took it to another level. Batista chased Byrne down the wing and fouled him, appearing to kick out at the defender at the end and kicking off a scrum in front of the Necaxa bench. After the chaos subsided, Byrne and Batista left with yellow cards, and Ashley Westwood picked up a caution for good measure.

As nine minutes of stoppage time wound down, Charlotte FC found their third of the night through Scott Arfield. Bronico and Swiderski were once again instrumental, with Bronico stripping the ball off Brayan Garnica in midfield before Swiderski dished the assist to Arfield. Arfield calmly finished to the bottom corner for his first goal in a CLTFC jersey, and the Crown exited the first half with a commanding lead.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Lindsey, Malanda, Privett, Byrne, Westwood, Bronico, Arfield, Jozwiak, Swiderski, Meram

Substitutions: Vargas (61’), Afful (61’), Agyemang (77’), Bender (80’), Jones (80’)

The second half started just as chippy and physical as the first half ended. Just four minutes in, Edgar Mendez of Necaxa went over the edge after getting tackled off the ball by Jaylin Lindsey. As a loose ball rolled towards Swiderski, Mendez charged in with no attempt to play the ball and leveled the forward. The referee had the straight red card out of his pocket nearly simultaneously, reducing Necaxa to ten men for the second straight match.

From there, Charlotte FC dominated proceedings with the man advantage. Head Coach Christian Lattanzio went to his bench to protect his players carrying yellow cards, bringing on Kerwin Vargas and Harrison Afful for Justin Meram and Ashley Westwood, respectively.

In the 68th minute, Lindsey whipped in a great cross to Swiderski, but he was just stretching to get his head on the ball and redirected it over the bar. Adilson Malanda, fresh off an injury layoff, later kicked into the studs of a Necaxa player but was able to rejoin the game.

In the meantime, Patrick Agyemang entered for Swiderski, Ben Bender for Scott Arfield, and Derrick Jones for Andrew Privett.

It seemed Charlotte FC would be content to keep possession and kill off the remainder of the game, but the game sparked back to life late on as the two teams traded goals. Lindsey slipped in Agyemang in the 87th minute and the forward calmly dispatched the breakaway, but Necaxa scored through Poggi just a minute later.

The game wrapped up soon after as the referee added no stoppage time, sending Charlotte FC through to the Round of 32 next week.