Charlotte FC came from behind to win yet again over Chicago Fire FC. This time, 21-year-old Brandon Cambridge was the star man, scoring a match-winning brace in just his 3rd career MLS appearance.
Lineup: Kahlina, Lindsey, Malanda, Sobocinski, Byrne, Jones, Bronico, Westwood, Swiderski, Copetti, Meram
Charlotte FC dominated the early stages of the match with the lion’s share of possession. This dominance resulted in two big penalty shouts, both involving Enzo Copetti but neither of which was awarded by referee Tori Penso.
Ten minutes into the match, a passage of good play resulted in Brandt Bronico slipping Copetti in behind. His aggressive first touch got him on the wrong side of the defender, and it appeared he was barged over from behind. Penso and VAR didn’t share the opinion of the CLTFC players or home crowd, though, and no penalty was given.
It only took fifteen minutes for Copetti to be involved in yet another contentious decision. This time, Ashley Westwood played a well-weighted long ball over the top for Copetti, who took his first touch beyond the Chicago defender. The Argentine went down from a last-ditch sliding challenge, but again was not rewarded with a penalty.
Chicago got themselves back in the game following the first 25 minutes of CLTFC dominance. Kristijan Kahlina made an excellent point blank save in the 27th minute, but Kacper Przybylko was able to slot one past him two minutes later on a breakaway. Kahlina had initially made a high caliber 1v1 stop, but the unlucky rebound fell directly back to the Polish striker to pass into an empty net.
From there, the half wound down with a few half chances for both sides. The Crown dominated possession and the Fire mainly looked to play on the break, but neither could find a clear chance before halftime.
Lineup: Kahlina, Lindsey (59’), Malanda (84’), Sobocinski, Byrne, Jones, Bronico, Westwood, Swiderski, Copetti, Meram (90’)
Substitutions: Cambridge (59’), Tuiloma (84’), Hegardt (90’)
Charlotte FC came out of the gates hot again to start the second half, resulting in a similar narrative to the first. Copetti had two more potential penalties waved off – one a handball on the Chicago defender, one a pull-back on Copetti’s shirt – and the Crown couldn’t get on the board.
Head Coach Christian Lattanzio quickly made a tactical shift by bringing in winger Brandon Cambridge for defender Jaylin Lindsey at the 60th minute. Adilson Malanda shifted to right back and Derrick Jones to center back, which enabled Swiderski to play as the central attacking midfielder and Cambridge as the right winger.
The change paid immediate dividends when Justin Meram played a clever pass to Cambridge across the top of the box. Cambridge coolly side footed the ball into the far post with his weaker left foot for the equalizer and his first career MLS goal.
From there the Crown began pouring on the pressure. Cambridge played in an inch perfect cross that barely evaded Swiderski on the far post. Then, Swiderski whipped in a deep free kick for Jan Sobocinski, whose glancing header was well saved by Fire goalkeeper Chris Brady.
Eventually CLTFC got their reward for the sustained pressure, and it was again Cambridge in just his third MLS appearance who found the winner. Nathan Byrne curled in a good cross for the winger on the back post. He settled the ball down, took a good prep touch out of his feet, and passed into the far post with his left foot again to put Charlotte FC in the lead.
Down the stretch, Lattanzio made substitutions to secure the result, with Bill Tuiloma featuring for the first time in a few weeks following his recovery from a muscle injury and Chris Hegardt providing extra energy on the wing.
Despite a feisty end to the match that featured some heavy challenges and player confrontations, Charlotte FC saw out the result for their fourth-straight win in all competitions (fifth-straight at home) and third-straight in the league.
WIN HIGHLIGHTS: Charlotte FC vs. Chicago Fire FC