Despite the low scoring affair, Charlotte FC's season opener was nothing short of electric. The fans were spectacular as 69,345 of them filled Bank of America Stadium. It was end-to-end action against the New England Revolution that kept the crowd on their feet throughout the match.
There was a natural early season lack of polish but the energy, worth ethic, and glimpses of what was worked on in preseason were there. It was a battle until the very end but New England managed a later winner that soured the party.
Lineup: Sisniega, Byrne, Malanda, Tuiloma, Mora, Westwood, Bronico, Jóźwiak, Świderski, Gaines, Copetti
Some loose touches, questionable decisions, and just that little bit of chaos that comes with a season opener was evident in the first 45. Some of that chaos led to an early New England free kick that was delivered in to a dangerous area by New England's Carles Gil.
In the13th minute, Charlotte FC started to get into a rhythm; moving in sync off the ball and quickly combining with each other causing the Revs problems. In the 21st minute, it culminated in an attacking sequence that saw Ashley Westwood just barely miss over the goal from 8 yards out after a pinpoint cross from Joseph Mora.
However, New England used that opportunity to counter and nearly scored. It was good positioning and strong hands by Pablo Sisniega that kept them from seeing the back of the net. Both teams were able to generate opportunities but a lack of polish in the final third hindered them from opening up the scoring.
Lineup: Sisniega, Byrne, Malanda, Tuiloma, Mora, Westwood, Bronico, Jóźwiak (63'), Świderski, Gaines, Copetti
Substitutes: Vargas (63'), Shinyashiki (76
Charlotte started the second half on the front foot with a half-chance dropping to Copetti from a Malanda cross. It was sent right to the penalty spot where Karol Świderski was waiting to lay it off behind him to Copetti who had his shot blocked. Charlotte continued their early control of the second half by winning corner after corner but just not being able to capitalize.
Charlotte edged ever closer to scoring when in the 56th minute a beautifully worked counter saw Copetti switch the point of attack to Brandt Bronico, opening the play. Mora, who was making a run into the box, received the ball and put in a low, hard cross that was barely snuffed out by the Rev's defense.
After Charlotte had the vast share of chances through the first 15 minutes, it was then New England's turn. They made better use of their possession, once again coming inches from scoring but denied by the crossbar in the 61st minute. Charlotte substitute Kerwin Vargas immediately made his presence felt when he came on in the 64th minute. He delivered a cross right to Świderski's head who hit it just wide and followed it up by creating the Crown's first shot on target with a hit of his own in the 69th.
Sisiniega continued his stellar performance on the night with a massive double save in the 77th minute keeping the match level. Two minutes later, Charlotte had a golden chance off yet another counter, a cross delivered by Brandt Bronico that found Kerwin Vargas who put it just high.
Charlotte continued asking question of New England until the very end but so did the Revs. New England ended up answering the call when they silenced the crowd with a goal in the 89th minute. New England's Brandon Bye put in a dangerous ball that Charlotte defender Bill Tuiloma did well to slide to intercept but the ball bounced back into Revolutions's Henry Kessler who slotted it in under the resilient Sisniega.
Instead of deflating, Charlotte pursued the equalizer relentlessly and came ever so close in the 91st minute where the lively Vargas was rejected the equalizer by the post.
Charlotte look ahead to next week's match as they hit the road to take on the MLS newcomer's, St. Louis SC, on March 4th at 7:30PM.