Charlotte FC entered their final stretch of four games with an opportunity to control their own destiny. Four wins from four – against Toronto, Chicago, and Miami twice – would guarantee CLTFC 8th place in the standings and hosting privileges for the first-round playoff game.
The team secured that first win in dominant fashion over Toronto. Next up: Chicago Fire FC away at Soldier Field. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s pivotal six-pointer.
Match: Charlotte FC vs Chicago Fire FC
When: Saturday, October 7
Where: Soldier Field
Kickoff: 8:30pm ET
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Listen: WFNZ 92.7 FM (English) & WOLS 106.1 FM (Spanish)
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Charlotte FC 3 – 0 Toronto FC (Major League Soccer | October 4)
Chicago Fire FC 4 – 1 Inter Miami CF (Major League Soccer | October 4)
Eastern Conference Table: For the full live table, click here.
8. Chicago Fire FC – 40 points, 32 GP
9. CF Montreal – 38 points, 32 GP
---------- Playoff Line ----------
10. NYCFC – 38 points, 32 GP
11. D.C. United – 37 points, 33 GP
12. New York Red Bulls – 37 points, 32 GP
13. Charlotte FC – 36 points, 31 GP
14. Inter Miami CF – 33 points, 31 GP
Both teams in this matchup notched massive midweek wins in the last round of matches. Charlotte FC ran rampant over last-placed Toronto FC in a dominant home display, while Chicago Fire FC took down a Lionel Messi-less Inter Miami CF in front of 62,124 at Soldier Field.
This gave both teams a much rosier picture of the playoff race. The Fire found themselves in 8th place at the end of the day, two points clear of ninth and in pole position. Charlotte FC moved to 13th but are only two points out from 9th with a game in hand.
That game in hand will come away against Inter Miami CF in a little under two weeks’ time, which could vault CLTFC above everyone around them in the playoff race going into Decision Day on October 21st (where everyone in MLS except for D.C. United – due to an odd-numbered league – play their final matches simultaneously).
However, that scenario hinges on Charlotte FC getting all three points over a Chicago team riding high from their 4-1 victory over Miami. With the Fire sitting four points up the road from The Crown, a win is critical to the majority of CLTFC’s playoff scenarios.
A loss or draw would mean Charlotte FC having to rely on other results to get themselves into the playoffs. As it currently stands, three wins from the three remaining games would guarantee 8th place and hosting privileges for the first-round game against the 9th seed, regardless of scores elsewhere.
After the team’s demolition of Toronto on Wednesday, Brecht Dejaegere – scorer of a potential Goal of the Year, which is worth watching over and over and over again – was not focused on the goal of his career.
Rather, he wanted to turn attention to the rest of the run-in, saying that “now the head goes straight to Chicago because we didn’t do anything yet tonight – only get the three points – but we didn’t achieve anything yet.”
The matchup between Charlotte and Chicago features some all-time matches, despite the series only being three games so far. All three of those meetings have been come-from-behind wins, with Charlotte FC overturning the deficit twice and Chicago doing so once.
In September 2022, with Charlotte FC facing a similar playoff race situation as they are now in 2023, The Crown found themselves down 2-0 within half an hour at Soldier Field. Losing the match would have meant immediate elimination from the playoffs.
CLTFC got their first goal back in the 68th minute through Karol Swiderski before Charlotte FC equalized matters in the 76th minute. Then, deep into stoppage time, Swiderski crafted a wonderful half chance that found the back of the net to send the CLTFC bench and fans into pandemonium.
The result remains the only time Charlotte FC have entered the 75th minute trailing and won the match.
Then, earlier this year, CLTFC got another epic come-from-behind result. Down 1-0 at Bank of America Stadium, rookie Brandon Cambridge entered the match in the 59th minute looking to make an impact… and what an impact it was.
The young winger scored his first goal after just nine minutes on the field, before bagging the winner late on in the 81st minute for a historic appearance off the bench.
Overall, this matchup has never disappointed, giving the fans late fireworks each and every time. With a massive three points on the line yet again, Saturday will be sure to deliver another classic at the tail end of the season.
Chicago Fire FC welcomed a packed house at Soldier Field for their victory over Inter Miami on Wednesday behind two goals each from Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri and Swiss winger Maren Haile-Selassie.
The Fire are now unbeaten in three and riding a two-match winning streak up the table, putting together key results at exactly the right time in the playoff race.
On the attacking end, Chicago have gotten the job done by committee so far. Haile-Selassie is their leading goal scorer with just six on the season, followed closely by veteran forward Kei Kamara and DP Shaqiri with five each.
Shaqiri, a full Swiss international, has had a quiet season by his high standards, but is rounding into form as the season winds down. The creative burden will likely be taken up by him (five assists) and young Homegrown Brian Gutierrez (nine assists), so those are the two to watch in the half spaces for Charlotte’s defensive midfielders.
The Season So Far
Charlotte FC’s second season got off to a tough start, with one win, three draws, and five losses in the opening eight matches. However, the Crown were able to stabilize in an extremely congested April and May, rattling off five straight wins at home in the league and the U.S. Open Cup. Over the course of the summer, wins were hard to come by, but the team kept themselves in touching distance of the playoffs with five draws in their last six games before the Leagues Cup break.
Leagues Cup served as a great reset for Charlotte FC. One penalty shootout win and one outright win put them through to the knockout stage as group winners, where CLTFC won two straight road games before falling to eventual champions Inter Miami in the quarterfinals.
Head Coach Christian Lattanzio’s side have been carrying that tournament momentum over to the last third of the MLS regular season but were generally unable to turn draws into key victories. However, they still found themselves in a good position to control their own destiny down the stretch.
A crucial, dominant home victory over Toronto FC on Wednesday got that needed winning streak underway. Now, CLTFC needs another clutch win on the road against Chicago.