One down, three to go.
With the stakes turned up to the max, Charlotte FC triumphed in their must-win midweek match against Toronto FC. They didn’t just win the match; they thoroughly outclassed Toronto by scoring three goals and keeping a clean sheet.
September was a frustrating month for Charlotte. They have largely been the better side in most of their matches, but the results haven’t reflected that. The team was desperately seeking that elusive win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and it came at a critical time.
“I told them after the game in New England that we just need a performance in which we can score a few goals and win convincingly,” said Head Coach Christian Lattanzio. “We've played well in the past, but what we have been missing is the win."
One of the challenges Lattanzio has faced since the summer window is finding a way to fit all the best attacking pieces on the field. Against Toronto, all three Designated Players – Karol Świderski, Enzo Copetti, and Kamil Jóźwiak - started the match along with summer signing Brecht Dejaegere.
It was perhaps the most fluid we have seen the attack as players were combining and moving freely to unbalance Toronto and generate scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity. Karol Świderski received all the headlines for his two goals and assist, but the match showcased what the quartet could accomplish together. Dejaegere described the growing chemistry as having a “5G Connection,” an ongoing inside joke between the players that the Belgian brought over from his time in France.
The cherry on top of the performance was the magnificent goal Dejaegere scored, a potential MLS Goal of the Year contender.
Jóźwiak blazed down the byline past his man and found Świderski in the box with a neat cutback. The Pole then flicked the ball with the outside of his foot in Dejaegere’s direction, who was facing the wrong way. However, he performed an instinctual back heel in the air to redirect the ball into the goal off the underside of the crossbar.
“For me it was an unbelievable goal,” said Świderski, still looking in disbelief after the match. “I looked at Ash [Westwood], like what happened? I don’t believe he scored this amazing goal. But I think the goal was also really important for him. He’s a really good player with great qualities so now he will have more confidence.”
Dejaegere, for his part, felt like the goal was “the best goal I’ve scored in my career.”
“It's cliché,” he continued. “For me the most important thing, you can ask anyone, I always put the team in front. It is always about the team.”
Charlotte continues to hold the reins of their playoff destiny with just three wins standing between them and the postseason. Furthermore, Montreal's recent draw has created an opportunity for Charlotte to potentially host the first-round playoff showdown between the eighth and ninth seeds. The team remains unwavering in their commitment to their goal, understanding that the job is far from finished.
“We’re really happy especially for the team and supporters," Dejaegere said. "But now the head goes straight to Chicago because we didn’t do anything yet tonight - only get the three points - but we didn’t achieve anything yet.”