After losing their three opening matches, Charlotte FC had the tall task of playing away against an Orlando City team that had yet to lose in MLS play. Not only did Charlotte FC win the match, they were the first opponent to score more than one goal against the Lions this season. In addition, Charlotte showed mental resilience to hold their one goal lead while under pressure for nearly 40 minutes straight and now head back to Charlotte with their first points of the season.
Lineup: Marks, Lindsey, Malanda, Tuiloma, Afful, Jones, Bronico, Westwood, Gaines, Vargas, Copetti
Charlotte FC knocked early on Orlando's door when in the 3rd minute Brandt Bronico intercepted a pass at midfield igniting a counter attack. He played Enzo Copetti in behind who then beat his man with a clever feint giving him space to find McKinze Gaines who was waiting in the box. Copetti squared the pass to Gaines who managed to get a foot on it but a last ditch sliding tackle from the Orlando defender kept the Crown from scoring early.
On the other end, George Marks who made his first MLS start since summer 2022, came up with a big early save on a stinging shot from Facundo Torres. In the 25th minute, after some incredible worth ethic from Copetti to retain the ball, another opportunity fell to Gaines who couldn't get enough power behind his shot to make it past the Pedro Gallese.
The Crown would have another scoring opportunity just a minute later and this time they would would make the most of it. Charlotte native, Jaylin Lindsey, played a curving ball in behind Orlando's defense that dropped into Copetti's path who had a clear 1v1 against the keeper and made no mistake in opening up the scoring for Charlotte with his second goal of the season.
It had been a long time coming for Kerwin Vargas, who has been one of Charlotte's better players this season, as he opened up his MLS scoring account to double Charlotte's lead in the 37th minute. With a quick cut back to his right foot at the top left corner of the penalty box, Vargas created enough space to shoot which deflected off the Orlando defender into the bottom left corner.
Lineup: Marks, Lindsey (67'), Malanda, Tuiloma, Afful (82'), Jones, Bronico, Westwood (45'), Gaines (67'), Vargas, Copetti
Substitutes: Santos (45'), Jóźwiak (67'), Byrne (67'), Mora (82')
Harrison Afful looked like he was going to seal the game with the 3rd CLTFC goal of the night in the 49th minute when he took a clever touch off a punched ball by Gallese from a corner that just narrowly hit the right post.
It was instead Orlando who closed the gap with a goal of their own in the 57th minute. A ball over the top beat Bill Tuiloma who just over shot the trajectory and he was beat by Duncan McGuire who managed to get a shot on goal that but with some quick reflexes was saved by Marks. Unfortunately, the ball bounced towards McGuire who squared a pass to his teammate Martin Ojeda who did well to finish with an diving Marks who nearly came up with a miraculous save.
Marks did end up making that miraculous save in the 85th minute when a near post shot was kept out by a quick snap of Marks's left arm. Charlotte showed impressive resilience to hold on to their lead through the dying moments of the match as Orlando did not make it easy as they pushed numbers forward.
Charlotte FC return home next weekend to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, March 25th at 7:30PM at Bank of America Stadium.