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Charlotte FC won their second-ever match on the road against the defending champions, New York City FC, on Wednesday night. An early goal from Swiderski set the tone and, after weathering a first half flurry of NYCFC chances, CLTFC came out of the break flying and never looked back.

With only a few minutes on the board at Red Bull Arena – NYCFC’s typical home venue at Yankee Stadium was unavailable to host – Quinn McNeill played a well-weighted pass through to McKinze Gaines who slotted it across the six-yard box for a Karol Swiderski tap-in.

There was some extended confusion as play continued and a lengthy VAR check followed, but the ball had clearly crossed the line before bouncing off NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson and the 4th minute goal was awarded.

The bright start quickly faded, however, as CLTFC struggled in the face of the NYCFC pressure.

They were punished for the passivity when center back Maxime Chanot scored an equalizing wonder goal, slicing his effort into the top corner.

Head Coach Christian Lattanzio felt the team was too deep and passive in the first half.

“We want to be a team that stays high on the pitch – that’s why I didn’t like the first half. I told the boys that we needed to go higher in the second half. We needed to play with more courage, to not let New York City run the show like they did in the first half.”

Those halftime comments proved inspirational, as the Crown came out as the aggressor in the second half and buried NYCFC after Brandt Bronico fired home his first-ever goal for the Club.

Bronico’s goal was a long time coming – the defensive midfielder has appeared in all 25 league games (24 starts) – but the goal was worth the wait. It was “beautiful” in Lattanzio’s words, as an entry ball from Christian Fuchs was backheeled by Swiderski to set up a Bronico half-volley into the side netting.

Thereafter, Charlotte FC held firm and Gaines earned his second “assist” of the night by winning a penalty in the 90th minute (though earned penalties do not officially count as assists).

Club captain Christian Fuchs calmly dispatched his third penalty of the year to eliminate any doubt and bring all three crucial points home to Charlotte.

The Playoff Picture

The importance of Wednesday night’s win away at the defending champions cannot be overstated. After a crushing 5-0 loss on Saturday to LAFC, this game took on even more importance, both in the standings and for the belief in the locker room.

Lattanzio felt that wins like this are what help “cement the spirit” of the team going into the final stretch of the regular season.

“The changing room is ecstatic. They are so happy. The importance of this win is in creating the belief – the belief that we can go away with some of the biggest teams, play with courage, and get the result.

“And, being a young club and a young team – not necessarily that all our players are young, but in the sense that they have been together for only a few months – they played with a lot of maturity and spirit.”

It’s easy to see this spirit in Brandt Bronico, scorer of the game-winning goal, who had a simple message when asked about his vision for the rest of the season.

“Playoffs. That’s it, that’s all I think about every day. Getting three points and making playoffs.”