Full Time

Full Time: Charlotte FC's Valiant Leagues Cup Journey Ends in the Quarterfinals Against Lionel Messi's Inter Miami

MIA Full Time

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Lindsey, Malanda, Privett, Afful, Westwood, Bronico, Arfield, Bender, Jóźwiak, Świderski

In each Leagues Cup match, Miami consistently found the net within the initial 10 minutes. This trend almost continued against Charlotte, as Lionel Messi received the ball on the right and swiftly transferred it to the opposite winger, Robert Taylor. The Fin surged down the left flank and attempted to locate his teammate, Josef Martinez, within the penalty box but his touch failed, bailing Charlotte but not for long.

Just as the match approached the 10-minute mark, Harrison Afful, who had come in to replace the suspended Nathan Byrne, conceded a penalty. This came after Afful's challenge on Dixon Arroyo fell short of being a clean tackle. Stepping up for the penalty kick, Josef Martinez expertly selected his target, successfully misleading goalkeeper Kahlina, and secured Miami the advantage in the 11th minute.

The toll of the tournament was evident on both teams, leading to a decrease in the match's pace after the goal was scored. In the 24th minute, Charlotte embarked on their most promising attacking sequence up to that point. A skillful passing sequence culminated in a half-chance for Karol Świderski, whose attempt, unfortunately, got blocked. However, this phase of play shifted the momentum in favor of Charlotte.

For the subsequent ten minutes, Charlotte controlled the rhythm of the game and held the lion's share of possession. Nonetheless, Miami showcased their prowess as the tournament's highest-scoring team shortly thereafter. In the 32nd minute, through their adept passing, Miami managed to disrupt Charlotte's defensive formation. The ball eventually found its way to the right-back, Deandre Yedlin, who then located Taylor inside the box, positioned between the defensive line and midfield. Taylor struck the ball on his first touch, just to the left of Charlotte's goalkeeper, Kristijan Kahlina, who did manage to get a touch on the ball but reacted a tad too late.

Charlotte persistently sought a crucial goal to rekindle their chances in the match, yet their approach was not dynamic enough to trouble Miami. They repeatedly delivered crosses into the box in their attempt to mount the comeback, but with no success. While they did earn a few corners, they struggled to capitalize on these set-piece opportunities, and went into the half still trailing 2-0.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Lindsey, Malanda, Privett, Afful (83'), Westwood, Bronico, Dejaegere (45'), Bender (, Agyemang (45'), Świderski

Substitutes: Vargas (64'), Cambridge (83')

In an effort to invigorate their offensive strategy, CLTFC's Head Coach Christian Lattanzio made the decision to introduce striker Patrick Agyemang and attacking midfielder Brecht Dejaegere right at the onset of the second half. This tactical maneuver yielded immediate results, as Charlotte surged forward with considerable intensity in the initial minutes. This pressure led to Harrison Afful taking a shot that narrowly skimmed over the crossbar. In response, Miami launched their own offensive initiative. Lionel Messi took possession of the ball in the middle of the field just above Charlotte's penalty area and carried it forward. However, Jaylin Lindsey held his position steadfastly and executed a critical block to deny Miami's number 10.

Charlotte's tactical adjustment was yielding the desired outcome – generating scoring opportunities. Swiderski and Agyemang teamed up for three shots on target, consistently challenging Miami's goalkeeper, Drake Callender between the 55th and 58th minutes. The attacking reinforcement for Charlotte persisted, with Kerwin Vargas replacing Ben Bender in the 64th minute.

Charlotte finally seized a breakthrough chance in the 77th minute. Vargas delivered an accurate cross to Agyemang, who didn't convert his header into a goal. Instead Miami turned the other way, capitalizing on Charlotte's transitional vulnerability. The ball was distributed wide to Miami in Charlotte's defensive third, and from there, Taylor sent in a menacing cross. Adilson Malanda, in his attempt to intercept, inadvertently redirected the ball into his own net.

Trailing 3-0, Charlotte employed their last substitution in the 83rd minute, bringing on winger Brandon Cambridge for Afful. Adding to the ordeal, Lionel Messi, whom Charlotte had managed to contain throughout the match, found the net in the 86th minute, extending his scoring streak to five consecutive games. Despite the final outcome, Charlotte defied expectations to reach the quarterfinals, displaying a commendable debut performance in the Leagues Cup. This achievement can serve as a source of pride and a catalyst to enhance their form in the MLS regular season.