Charlotte FC embarks on their inaugural playoff match in franchise history traveling to face off against an MLS original, the New York Red Bulls. The Wild Card showdown promises to be a fiercely contested encounter, as both teams are well-acquainted with each other.
Here are the three ingredients of the match:
Capitalizing on Set Pieces
Similar to Charlotte, Red Bulls have gone through ups and downs throughout the season, but it was never because of their defense. They finished the regular season with the third fewest goals conceded in the Eastern Conference and in their last seven matches, allowed only one goal from open play. Recently, their vulnerabilities have surfaced mainly through set pieces, with five of their last six goals conceded being from penalties, free kicks, or corner kicks.
It's evident that the Red Bulls will make it challenging for Charlotte to score through open play, but they've displayed susceptibility when it comes to set pieces. While Charlotte has faced difficulties in creating threats from corners, they must exploit set pieces as another means to unsettle the Red Bulls.
Overcoming the Press
The Red Bulls' formidable defense is built upon their well-structured and relentless high-pressing tactics. They suffocate opponents in their own half, compelling them to resort to long and direct play, which plays to the Red Bulls' strengths. Resisting the urge to succumb to this pressure is crucial for The Crown.
Charlotte needs to establish numerical advantages across the field to provide passing options when building from the back. Maintaining composure and focus is paramount, given the pressure of the occasion and the intensity on the field. By doing so, they can create scoring opportunities and potentially reap the rewards.
Enjoy the Game
A noticeable contrast between the midweek draw against Miami and the weekend victory to secure a playoff spot was the teams' composure. In Miami, nerves seemed to get the better of The Crown, leading to a shaky performance. However, at home the team exuded an air of confidence as the players appeared to embrace and relish the occasion.
“I think it’s just to relax and enjoy the game,” emphasized CLTFC captain Ashley Westwood regarding what’s the key to getting a win in the Club’s first playoff game in history. "That’s what I said the other night. We know what we have to do, it's like any other football game. It’s 11 against 11 and if we perform well, we win. Don’t let the occasion get to us.”
Charlotte can also draw strength from their previous encounters with the Red Bulls. Having faced them multiple times and achieved success. The Crown came close to defeating them at Red Bull Arena this season when they scored two goals, making them one of only four teams to do so this season.
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