Charlotte FC thought they had secured a vital three points on the road at Nashville SC in the playoff race after Scott Arfield once again delivered a clutch goal off the bench. However, Nashville earned a late and potentially controversial penalty to split the points with the final play of the match.
Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Jones, Bronico, Bender, Swiderski, Jozwiak
The opening 20 minutes of the half proceeded just about how many would have predicted before kickoff. Nashville were content to soak up pressure, conceding the majority of possession to Charlotte and looking to hit on the break through reigning MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar and his DP strike partner Sam Surridge.
Eventually, though, the match got more stretched – and chippy – as both teams went on a series of counter attacks. Despite some promising situations, the only results were yellow cards to Mukhtar for diving and to Derrick Jones for a tactical foul that broke up a dangerous counter.
Kristijan Kahlina was on hand twice to deny potential danger, first palming over an awkwardly mishit Shaq Moore cross and then smartly rushing off his line to cut off a Surridge breakaway. On the attacking end, CLTFC got themselves into plenty of dangerous positions, but couldn’t quite find the final ball to generate a quality chance and the half ended at zeroes.
Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen (83’), Westwood, Jones (52’), Bronico (78’), Bender, Swiderski (52’), Jozwiak (52’)
Substitutions: Arfield (52’), Copetti (52’), Meram (52’), Vargas (78’), Lindsey (83’)
The second half got underway with a chance for both sides. Adilson Malanda tracked down Surridge as he ran in behind and shepherded him wide to block the shot, before CLTFC went the other way on a counter. Brandt Bronico nearly fired it across the goalmouth for Karol Swiderski, but the Nashville defender did well to block it.
After just seven minutes, Head Coach Christian Lattanzio and his staff decided to make three proactive, early substitutions. Kamil Jozwiak, Derrick Jones, and Karol Swiderski all exited the pitch, with Justin Meram, Scott Arfield, and Enzo Copetti brought on in their stead.
The game continued with much of the same rhythm, as neither team could quite convert their half chances into real shots on target. Hany Mukhtar continued to create singlehandedly for Nashville, having one shot deflected by Andrew Privett inches wide of the post and another deflected by his own player just wide of the opposite post.
Bronico kept flashing danger in Nashville’s box with third man runs. The best of these moments was in the 71st minute when he cut across on the near post to meet a Scott Arfield cross, but he couldn’t keep his header down on target. From there, though, The Crown really started to ratchet up the pressure, keeping Nashville pinned in for a long stretch.
Kerwin Vargas and Jaylin Lindsey also entered the game as Charlotte FC looked for a winning goal. Bombing forward on the overlap, Lindsey nearly delivered the assist by cutting back a cross for Meram. It wasn’t to be, though, as he hit the shot straight at Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis.
After so many chances and building up the pressure, CLTFC finally found the breakthrough deep into stoppage time. Scott Arfield, hero of the victory over LAFC just a week ago, once again found a late goal from the bench. Adilson Malanda set the ball for him on top of the eighteen, and he volleyed it home into the bottom corner past Willis.
However, the celebrations were short-lived for the many Charlotte FC fans who made the trek to Nashville. Nathan Byrne, trying to defend a desperate final long ball into the box, got tangled up with Lukas MacNaughton, who had jumped ahead of him. The referee controversially pointed to the spot despite CLTFC protests and Hany Mukhtar buried the resulting penalty kick.
That was ultimately the final action of the match, and the teams left with a point apiece.