Press Recaps

Dean Smith Remains Optimistic Following Back-to-Back Bouts Against MLS Elite


Charlotte FC engaged in a fierce contest against the 2023 Supporter's Shield victors and arguably the current best team in MLS, FC Cincinnati, in their 1-1 deadlock at Bank of America Stadium. They not only went toe-to-toe with them but outplayed their opponents for most of the game despite starting with no designated players.

Charlotte held Cincinnati at bay until the 92nd minute when FCC demonstrated why they remain undefeated after six matches. They persisted into extra time and eventually netted a well-worked goal.

Understandably, Charlotte felt disheartened at being so close to securing all three points against one of the league's top teams. However, Head Coach Dean Smith provided solace to his players, offering a broader perspective on what was ultimately an impressive performance.

“I just spoke to the players because they are a little bit too down,” started Smith. “Yeah, we’re a bit disappointed for conceding a late goal but these are the Supporter’s Shield winners last season, they’re unbeaten this season, and they’re the best defense in the league and we created a lot of opportunities...

“I also felt we defended in our box really well. If you put those two items together for the majority of the season, sometimes you suffer that in a game... but more often than not you’re going to take your chances and win four or five nil.”

Charlotte themselves are proving to be formidable opponents for any team regardless of standing. Not only have they demonstrated defensive prowess, but they've also shown an ability to create scoring opportunities even against staunch defenses like Cincinnati's.

While the scoring opportunities have been plentiful for Charlotte, the team has struggled to capitalize on them this season.

“I’d be a lot more worried if weren’t getting chances,” analyzed Smith. “When teams aren’t getting chances then you know you got problems. We don’t have problems because we have people who are willing to run and get into areas where you are going to get opportunities.

“Our job now is to make them better finishers and be good in those moments because there were some really good moments where we just didn’t capitalize on.”

Someone who is likely to bolster this aspect is the new designated player, Liel Abada, who made his MLS debut against Cincinnati. He immediately showed fans what he could do when he went on a solo run, showcasing his blistering pace and ability to take players on directly.

“Been waiting on it for a long time,” said Abada following his first appearance for the Club after being introduced in the 61st minute. “I’m really happy to make my debut in front of the fans. It was a really nice atmosphere, and really looking forward to the next game.”

That electric atmosphere has been the cornerstone of Charlotte's ongoing 12-match unbeaten streak. Center back, Andrew Privett, who’s remained a key piece to Charlotte’s defense, emphasized the profound impact the home crowd has.

“The fans behind us bringing their energy goes a long way, more than anybody knows,” said Privett. “We want to keep that streak going, but not just ties, we want three points here.”

Despite relinquishing two points, there's a prevailing sentiment within the locker room that the team has yet to reach its full potential. There's a belief that this Charlotte side has the potential for something extraordinary, but like any team undergoing adjustments with new personnel and a new coach, it will require time. Nevertheless, all indications suggest that the team is continuing to head in the right direction.

“We feel like we are just shy from something special. We can feel that within our team. I think just carrying that energy, and not feeling too down from taking 4 points against the two top teams in this league. So, I think going forward we just got to take that energy and keep a positive attitude going forward.”