Charlotte FC stormed out to a 2-0 advantage over Philadelphia early in the second half in front of a rocking Bank of America Stadium. However, The Crown were unable to hold on to their advantage, falling to a 2-2 draw after the Union earned a late, stoppage-time penalty.
Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Bronico, Swiderski, Bender, Copetti, Meram
Charlotte FC and the Philadelphia Union matched up Wednesday night in a game with marked stylistic differences. CLTFC dominated possession, looking to build from back to front intricately and create overloads as players interchanged positions. Philadelphia created their overloads in a much more direct fashion, getting the ball to their two strikers as quickly as possible and building their chances with passing combinations from there.
Early on, both styles were paying off decently well and the sides traded chances back and forth. Philadelphia hit the post from a corner kick in the 5th minute, and Nathan Byrne had a good chance in the 12th minute from the top of the box that Union goalkeeper Andre Blake comfortably saved.
Around the quarter hour mark, Alejandro Bedoya blazed a cutback from a good area well over the bar and Enzo Copetti had a left-footed shot from a tight angle saved after Brandt Bronico won the ball on top of the Philadelphia box through a high press.
The teams also traded nerve-wracking mistakes. First, Adilson Malanda misread a bouncing long ball, allowing Chris Donovan in behind, but Kristijan Kahlina was alert to the danger and quickly closed down the space to deny the 1v1 opportunity. Just two minutes later, Blake miscontrolled a back pass from his own player and it rolled under his foot. Luckily, he was standing wide of his goal and the ball rolled out for a corner kick rather than into the net.
Charlotte FC had the best two chances of the closing minutes, but Karol Swiderski had his shot blocked inside the box and Copetti didn’t connect on an audacious scissor kick. Justin Meram collected the rebound from that attempt but didn’t strike the ball well enough to beat Blake.
Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Bronico (77’), Swiderski (86’), Bender (77’), Copetti (86’), Meram (68’)
Substitutions: Dejaegere (68’), Jozwiak (77’), Jones (77’), Agyemang (86’), Arfield (86’)
CLTFC continued their momentum from the end of the first half and took control of the second half from the start. Their dominance was rewarded with two quickfire goals and a 2-0 advantage inside 15 minutes.
Justin Meram, who was the only change to the starting lineup from Saturday’s 0-0 draw against D.C. United, got the party started in the 55th minute. Swiderski and Copetti combined really well to build the chance, executing a give-and-go twice inside the box before Damion Lowe tackled the ball away. The ball fell straight to Meram, though, who smashed it home through a crowd of Philadelphia defenders.
The Crown immediately pressed for their second goal and found it six minutes later. Bronico got himself into the half space inside the box, had his first cross blocked by Lowe, but clipped his second chance cross successfully in. Swiderski arrived right on time, flashing across Jakob Glesnes’ and Blake’s blind sides and heading the ball into an empty net at the front post.
The Union refused to roll over quietly, though, and halved the deficit in the 70th minute. Quinn Sullivan, freshly substituted into the game, cleverly held his run and stood in space at the edge of the box. He finished the cutback cross superbly into the far post, leaving Kahlina with no chance.
Brecht Dejaegere had entered for goal scorer Justin Meram just before the Union’s goal, and CLTFC lost Ben Bender to an apparent injury in the 77th minute. Head Coach Christian Lattanzio brought on Kamil Jozwiak to replace him and also changed out Bronico for Derrick Jones.
Right after the new pair entered the field, Swiderski demonstrated his skill by setting up two brilliant, clear-cut chances. He first slipped Copetti in behind with a great first-time ball, but the Argentine’s shot was well saved by Blake. Then, Swiderski laid the ball off for Derrick Jones clean through on goal. Jones had plenty of time to pick his spot, but he fired his effort just over the bar to let Philadelphia off the hook.
Lattanzio made two changes to close out the home win, bringing on Scott Arfield and Patrick Agyemang for Karol Swiderski and Enzo Copetti. Agyemang had a good chance early in stoppage time but dragged his effort well wide after creating separation from Lowe.
Unfortunately, the win wasn’t to be for Charlotte FC. With just three minutes of stoppage time left to play, Dejaegere dove in on Olivier Mbaizo inside the box for a clear foul. Daniel Gazdag scored his 11th penalty of the year from the resulting spot kick to equalize the match.
With that, CLTFC drew their fourth match in a row. An away trip to the Supporter’s Shield-leading FC Cincinnati is up next on Saturday.