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CHARLOTTE – The winger positions are some of the most heavily contested at Charlotte FC with Kamil Jóźwiak, Andre Shinyashiki, Yordy Reyna, Kerwin Vargas, and McKinze Gaines all vying to claim them as their own.

Gaines got the nod to start against the New York Red Bulls and made the most of it by being one of CLTFC’s most threatening players on the day. The competition within the group has only pushed Gaines, and focusing on maximizing his minutes is his game plan to keep earning more.

“It’s just playing the best that I can every game that I get the opportunity to play. I said it before in an older interview, that iron sharpens iron. That’s definitely the case, especially in my position, and with the guys we have on the team.

I was lucky enough to get the start against Red Bulls, I mean, that was something I was working for. I’m really happy to have played the way I did. But there are also people behind me, obviously we have Kamil coming back, so it’s going to be good. We are going to push each other in training and it’s only going to make each other better.”

It’s now week two of training under interim head coach, Christian Lattanzio, and the intensity of training is what continues to stand out to the players. But it’s also Lattanzio’s willingness to work with the players one on one that has personally benefitted Gaines.

“Every training now is done with a different intensity. Guys are out there fighting, not only to play but fight for positions. Obviously, with new coaches, brings new opinions. But I think every training so far since Christian has been appointed has been led with a different intensity.

“He’s actually been probably one of the most influential assistant coaches that I’ve had so far as a professional. He’s always not only pulling me but other players aside in the team. He’s shown me areas of my game that I can work on.

“Whether it’s to go past a guy and beat him and to get a cross in or to pull it back and to get a cross with my left foot, which I’ve probably never done in my career, but he’s shown me it’s a possibility and something that I can work on.

“He’s been great. I think he’s not only helped myself to development but also other people on the team.”

As the team trains in preparation for their trip to Columbus this weekend, remaining winless still haunts them, but Gaines says the team is using it as further motivation for the Crew.

“We look at the table and I think we are sitting 6th in the East right now and that’s never having won a game away. I think that gives us extra motivation to say hey if we keep winning these games at home and we snatch a few on the road there is no reason why we can’t be sitting comfortably in a playoff spot whenever the season ends.

“I think this team has quickly established itself as a team that is very tough to beat. You saw that on the weekend against the Red Bulls. So yeah, we are fighting for the playoffs, we are pushing forward, and we think it’s very obtainable.”