Leagues Cup

Charlotte FC Triumph Again in a Leagues Cup Texas Shootout

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First Half

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

Charlotte FC’s first Knockout Round match of Leagues Cup got underway in Frisco, Texas with the team wearing their purple Crown Jewel kit and Cruz Azul in their all-light blue. On the line was a berth in the Round of 16 against Houston Dynamo FC.

The opening quarter hour of the match crawled by. Temperatures were over 100 at kickoff, even as the sun set and cast the entire stadium in shade. There was nothing much to write home about before the mandatory hydration break, aside from a few half chances that both keepers saved when needed and a smattering of “Azul” chants from the Cruz Azul faithful in the stadium.

The best chance for Charlotte FC came in the 42nd minute. After some good buildup play, Scott Arfield helped the ball on with a clever flick inside the box. Karol Swiderski responded with a flick-on of his own to find Ashley Westwood, who was momentarily open for a quality shot on goal. However, his shot was well-blocked by the Cruz Azul defense.

With that, the match continued on to halftime knotted at zeroes.

Second Half

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

Substitutions: Vargas (70’), Jones (70’)

The opening ten minutes of the second half progressed much like the first, although with a little extra spice as tensions began to ratchet up and fouls started to pour in.

Then, in the 57th minute, Cruz Azul had the best two chances of the match to that point in quick succession. Carlos Rotondi got Adilson Malanda isolated and cut inside the French defender, but he fired a tame right-footed shot right at Kristijan Kahlina from a great position.

Straight after, Carlos Antuna got in behind Nathan Byrne with space and time to shoot, but he also misfired, dragging his shot wide of the far post. To make matters worse for the winger, he picked up a yellow card for sweeping out Bronico’s legs a few minutes later.

In the 65th minute, the Crown committed quite a few numbers forward while in a promising position, but a turnover led to a quick counter for Cruz Azul. Nathan Byrne was left chasing down two players streaking in behind as Charlotte FC fans watched with dread, and he was able to bravely take the ball off Diber Cambindo at the last possible moment to avert the danger.

Head Coach Christian Lattanzio decided to change the look of his team in the 70th minute, bringing Kerwin Vargas on for Justin Meram at winger and solidifying the midfield with Derrick Jones for Scott Arfield just before the second half hydration break.

On the other side of the second half hydration break, Cruz Azul goalkeeper Andres Gudino came up with the biggest save of the match. Bronico slipped Swiderski in behind in the box, nearly a reverse image of Swiderski’s assist to the American last match, and Gudino somehow got a left hand on the shot to deflect it just wide.

Ben Bender, brought on for Kamil Jozwiak with 10 minutes to go, provided a good spark from the right winger position. Swiderski nearly found him on a breakaway but just overplayed the pass, and Bender had multiple good deliveries into the box that created danger but didn’t quite come off in the end.


Charlotte FC would once again find themselves in a penalty shootout in Frisco, Texas, but this time with a spot in the Round of 16 on the line. Penalties would prove to be a back and forth affair just like the match itself. After two misses from Karol Swiderski and Ashley Westwood, the Crown needed a massive performance from Kristijan Kahlina.

He delivered. With three saves in the shootout, including the final attempt to secure the victory, the Croatian Wall again came up with a Man of the Match performance for Charlotte FC.

Ben Bender, Derrick Jones, Kerwin Vargas, and Andrew Privett were the scorers for Charlotte FC in the penalty shootout.

Charlotte FC now advance to the Round of 16 in Leagues Cup 2023 and are set to face the Houston Dynamo on Monday, August 7th in Texas once again.



Charlotte FC moves on to the Round of 16 and takes on Houston Dynamo Monday, August 7 at Shell Energy Stadium.