Charlotte FC’s playoff fate comes down to a series against Inter Miami in the last week of the MLS regular season with the first match in Fort Lauderdale.
Here are the three ingredients of the match:
Chip on the Shoulder
As Charlotte entered the pivotal final four-match stretch, they were coming off two consecutive losses, and many had given up hope on the team's playoff chances. Nevertheless, the team never gave up on themselves.
"We're confident even when people had written us off weeks ago," said CLTFC captain Ashley Westwood after his team's impressive 2-0 away victory over Chicago Fire FC, a team that had just defeated Inter Miami 4-1 a few days prior.
Sometimes, when a team is backed up against the wall, their true colors begin to show. Charlotte FC had found themselves staring at four must-win games in a row to finish the year, effectively starting their playoff run four matches early. With little margin for error, the team has answered the call with a chip on their shoulders over the first half of that run.
There was a clear sense of determination and togetherness that was particularly evident in these two consecutive wins. They handled business at home against Toronto and followed it up with a hard-fought victory against the Chicago Fire. Now, as they head to Miami, where they were previously defeated 4-0 in the Leagues Cup Quarterfinals, there's no doubt that the team is eager to continue proving the skeptics wrong by securing a win at DRV PNK Stadium.
Exploiting Vulnerabilities in Transition
In Miami's 4-1 loss to the Fire, two of their goals were conceded during transition moments. Chicago capitalized on these opportunities by launching swift runs towards the goal from various positions on the field. Miami's midfield struggled to recover in time and had difficulty keeping track of the runners, highlighting their vulnerability to transitions, a recurring issue throughout the season.
In this matchup, Charlotte, a team that typically prefers to dominate ball possession, may benefit from allowing Miami more time on the ball. This strategy could be used to coax the Herons further up the field, force turnovers, and then exploit the speed of players like Enzo Copetti, Kamil Jóźwiak, and Kerwin Vargas, combined with the passing abilities of Ashley Westwood, Brecht Dejaegere, and Karol Świderski, to create scoring opportunities for Charlotte in transition.
Throughout the year, CLTFC have been very engaged with their pressing, often trying to win the ball high up the field. Creating these turnovers and then taking advantage of a disorganized Miami defense could be pivotal to securing a result in Fort Lauderdale.
Center Back Partnership
Ever since Andrew Privett was thrust into his first MLS game during Leagues Cup, he has remained a steadfast partner to Adilson Malanda in the center back position. This defensive duo has consistently performed well and has played a critical role in Charlotte's improvement over the past couple of months. Their work was rewarded with consecutive clean sheets, the first time the Club has managed to do so in its two-year history.
With Inter Miami no longer in playoff contention, there is uncertainty clouding the availability of many of their top players, including Lionel Messi. Nevertheless, Miami still possesses talented attacking players who can pose a threat to any team. Privett and Malanda will need to remain at their best, supported by the rest of the team, in order to win out the series and earn the right to host the Wild Card playoff match.
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MIA WATCH PARTY
Join us at the Bank to watch Charlotte FC take on Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium.
October 18th at 7:00 PM | Kickoff at 8:00 PM | Bank of America Stadium