Charlotte FC is heading north for another showdown between the Queen Cities as they prepare to take on the current top-ranked team in MLS, F.C. Cincinnati, in what promises to be a demanding away fixture.
Here are the three ingredients of the match:
Six Finals Remain
While it might sound cliché, dwelling on the heart-wrenching draw against the Philadelphia Union should be the last thing occupying the minds of our players. Following that match, center back Adilson Malanda expressed his frustration but swiftly shifted his focus towards the upcoming fixtures.
“We still have six finals to go to get us into the playoffs,” emphasized the Frenchman.
Charlotte remains firmly in the playoff race. Despite the impact of draws on their standings, they have retained control over their destiny. Just as in any championship match, treating every game as a do-or-die encounter is essential, which includes safeguarding leads in the closing moments. Charlotte has demonstrated their ability to earn leads, but their capacity to protect leads in the late stages now separates wins from draws.
“We need to overcome this mental block in the final five minutes when we are ahead in games,” asserted Captain Ashley Westwood.
In their previous encounter with FC Cincinnati, Charlotte secured a 2-0 lead but ended up conceding two goals, settling for yet another draw. The frontrunner for the MVP title, Lucho Acosta, orchestrated a remarkable comeback with a goal and the game-winning assist.
He is one of those rare players who can single-handedly turn the tide in favor of his team. Acosta, a pure playmaker wearing the number 10 jersey, orchestrates every aspect of his team's game. His ability to conjure brilliance out of thin air demands that opposing teams remain razor-sharp. For Charlotte FC, maintaining an unwavering mental focus on defense will be imperative to neutralize a player of Acosta's caliber.
Maintain High Spirits
Charlotte's next challenge is against the current top-ranked team in MLS, in one of the league's most formidable venues for visiting teams. However, if there is one positive takeaway from Charlotte's recent games following the MLS reset, it is their demonstrated capability to compete against any team in the league.
"The positives are we are playing really well, we are creating chances, so we’ll go to Cincinnati in good form and will look to get good result,” stated Westwood regarding what the team can draw from the Union match.
Charlotte recently faced another notoriously challenging venue in Nashville, where they not only secured a point but also maintained control of the match throughout. The team must keep their spirits high against FC Cincinnati and believe in their ability to secure a victory against the Eastern Conference's top-seeded team, because they’ve shown to possess the potential to do so.
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