Charlotte FC got out to an early lead and never relinquished it on Wednesday night at Bank of America Stadium. A Karol Swiderski double from the spot, plus a wonder goal from Brecht Dejaegere, captured a crucial three points for The Crown in the playoff race.
Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Bronico, Swiderski, Jozwiak, Dejaegere, Copetti
Charlotte FC entered Wednesday’s match with the opportunity to keep control of their own destiny in the playoff race. Win four games out of their remaining four, starting with Toronto FC, and the team would guarantee themselves a playoff spot.
It was clear the players felt that urgency from the outset, with Nathan Byrne setting up Enzo Copetti for a quality early shot on goal. From the resulting corner, Kamil Jozwiak beat Toronto keeper Luka Gavran to a loose ball and hit the deck to earn a penalty – after a short VAR review.
Karol Swiderski stepped up to the spot and coolly found the back of the net for his third penalty goal in all competitions and the lead in just the 8th minute.
From there, CLTFC was relentless with the pressure to create chance after chance.
Copetti was getting himself in excellent positions, nearly doubling The Crown’s lead twice with headed chances on top of the six-yard box. However, he flashed the first header just wide of the far post and appeared to be unsighted on the second as he couldn’t get clean contact.
Brecht Dejaegere also had a top tier chance within the opening half hour. Kamil Jozwiak was sent off to the races down the right channel and floated a cross for the late-arriving and wide open Belgian. Dejaegere, though, couldn’t quite keep his header down on target.
CLTFC’s endless pressure looked like it paid off with a slick team goal in the 34th minute. Dejaegere and Jere Uronen played a one-two on the left side before poking it in to Brandt Bronico, whose clever flick allowed Swiderski to smash home from close range. After the celebrations finished, though, referee Malik Badawi went to the monitor to disallow the goal on an – unfortunately marginal but clear – offside.
In the 44th minute, Copetti seemed to finally get his reward with a snapped header. Gavran clawed it away from the line, and Charlotte FC earned another penalty through Ashley Westwood straight away. After a lengthy review where CLTFC players protested for Copetti’s chance – which appeared to cross the line – the penalty was given but the Copetti strike was not.
Swiderski then went the same way on his second penalty of the first half, sending Gavran the wrong way again, to double Charlotte’s advantage going into the break.
Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen (55’), Westwood (79’), Bronico (67’), Swiderski (79’), Jozwiak, Dejaegere (67’), Copetti
Substitutions: Lindsey (55’), Jones (67’), Vargas (67’), Arfield (79’), Meram (79’)
Charlotte FC kept their foot on the pedal to start the second half. Around ten minutes in, Brecht Dejaegere scored a potential goal of the year candidate with a superbly taken scorpion kick goal.
Jozwiak did great work on the right side to cut back for Swiderski, whose outside of the foot pass found Dejeagere facing the wrong way. However, the Belgian got creative, backheeling the ball out of the air and in off the underside of the crossbar for a 3-0 lead.
Spells of possession went back and forth over the next 15 minutes, but CLTFC always looked comfortable in defense and threatened danger every time they got forward. Head Coach Christian Lattanzio made three changes – Jaylin Lindsey, Derrick Jones, and Kerwin Vargas – to keep the team fresh down the stretch (and perhaps with an eye towards an away trip to Chicago in three days).
In the 78th minute, Westwood picked off a pass in midfield and sent Jozwiak in behind. His cross nearly found Swiderski right on the goalmouth, but the ball deflected back to Jones. His shot was excellently saved by Gavran, who left a strong left hand in the air to push it over the bar.
Justin Meram and Scott Arfield then entered as CLTFC’s final two substitutes with eleven minutes remaining.
From there, CLTFC successfully saw out the result and the shutout for a crucial three points in the playoff race. The team would clinch a playoff spot with three more wins from their remaining three games, setting up a great opportunity on Saturday in Chicago.