Full Time

Full Time: Charlotte FC Come Just Short in 2-1 Defeat to Nashville SC


Charlotte FC and Nashville SC cancelled each other out with two first half goals. The match seemed destined for a draw until Nashville received a stoppage-time penalty, which Mukhtar slotted home to win the match.

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Malanda, Tuiloma, Sobocinski, Byrne, Jones, Bronico, Westwood, Copetti, Swiderski, Meram

Charlotte FC got off to a hot start on Saturday night with their five-match home winning streak on the line. Straight away in the 2nd minute, Karol Swiderski engaged the high press and nearly blocked Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis’ clearance into the net.

Soon after, Brandt Bronico scored a brilliant goal to open his 2023 account and put The Crown in the lead. Justin Meram played a line-breaking pass into Bronico on top of the eighteen. The North Carolina native turned and dribbled his way through three Nashville defenders, poking the ball past Willis on the stretch and in off the near post. In the goal celebration chaos, his teammates did well to give him space for his trademark, fan-favorite Superman celebration.

Nashville then had a goal chalked off for a clear offside before CLTFC kept up the pressure. A well-worked set piece fell to Nathan Byrne at the top of the box, but he scuffed his volley wide. As the first half ticked over halfway through, Swiderski led a good counter attack that was recycled and ended with a good header on target. The Polish striker likely had time to take the ball down off his chest for a higher quality chance but elected for the header with his split-second decision.

Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar equalized in the 38th minute. A second ball fell to him on the bounce more than 30 yards from the goal, and his off-target volley took an extremely unlucky deflection off Bill Tuiloma. The deflection completely wrong-footed CLTFC goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina and rolled into the net.

Just before halftime, Meram continued his impactful arrival in Charlotte, pinging a line drive to Copetti in behind on the opposite side of the field. The Argentine’s first touch went a bit behind him, and the tackle from the trailing Nashville defender took the chance away, leaving the sides all square at the break.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Malanda (81’), Tuiloma, Sobocinski, Byrne, Jones, Bronico, Westwood (81’), Copetti (62’), Swiderski, Meram (81’)

Substitutions: Cambridge (62’), Vargas (81’), Afful (81’), Lindsey (81’)

The opening 15 minutes of the second half settled into a steady rhythm of half chances for both sides. Meram cut inside and had a shot sail harmlessly into Willis’ arms, Bronico picked up a yellow card to prevent a Mukhtar-led counter attack, and Copetti nearly stole in behind after a loose Nashville pass in their own defensive third.

The match-winning hero of Wednesday’s match, Brandon Cambridge, entered in the 62nd minute and provided a good spark. Charlotte FC had a few shots from decent positions go straight at Willis, and Nashville SC looked comfortable against the ball. Cambridge drove inside strong soon after entering, putting Dax McCarty in the book, but Tuiloma skied the resulting free kick.

Nashville, for their part, had a few semi-dangerous opportunities. The most significant was when Mukhtar got himself 1v1 on the left side of the eighteen and cut in on his right foot, forcing Kahlina into a strong save high at his near post.

Head Coach Christian Lattanzio made a trio of subs with 10 minutes remaining. Kerwin Vargas entered for Meram, Jaylin Lindsey for Malanda, and Harrison Afful for Westwood to provide fresh energy in the closing stages. Vargas immediately whipped in two dangerous in-swingers, one from a free kick and one from open play, that created danger in the Nashville box.

An 85th minute corner kick from Swiderski created one of the most dangerous opportunities of the night. His cross met a free Derrick Jones’ head with pace on the back post but was deflected over the bar.

In the dying embers of the match, Kahlina made a top class 1v1 save on Mukhtar to seemingly salvage the result for The Crown. However, off the rebound, Nathan Byrne slipped in the box and made minimal contact with Shaffelburg’s leg. The Nashville attacker hit the ground, referee Rubiel Vazquez pointed to the spot, and no VAR review was recommended despite the passionate CLTFC remonstrations.

Mukhtar slotted the penalty just under Kahlina’s outstretched arm, and the goal stood as the match-winner with CLTFC unable to conjure an equalizer.

Next up, Charlotte FC embark on a four-match road trip, starting with USL Championship’s Birmingham Legion with a spot in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on the line.