Full Time

The Full Time Clip: Charlotte FC Come Up Short in 1-0 Loss at Houston Dynamo FC 

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CLTFC was unable to overcome an early fifth minute goal in humid Texas conditions

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Bronico, Diani, Bender, Abada, Vargas, Agyemang

In the infamous Houston heat and humidity on Saturday night, the home team got off to a much better start. After dominating possession over the opening five minutes, the Dynamo scored the opening goal. A low cross was fired into Sebastian Ferreira’s feet inside the box, and the striker cleverly chipped it through for Ibrahim Aliyu to smash home past Kristijan Kahlina.

The early goal eliminated any potential for CLTFC to add to their league-leading nine clean sheets, and it also ended a streak of never conceding in the first half hour of matches so far in 2024.

A few minutes later, Kerwin Vargas tested Steve Clark in the Houston goal for the first time, snapping a shot at his near post that the keeper parried wide. However, over that opening half hour, the Dynamo continued their possession dominance over CLTFC.

Djibril Diani picked up a yellow card in the 27th minute for a rough, mistimed challenge outside the box. That set up Houston captain Hector Herrera for a free kick opportunity, which he fired on goal but Kahlina saved comfortably.

CLTFC responded with a neat combination between the front three of Agyemang, Vargas, and Abada, which ended with a shot on goal for the Israeli winger that Clark also saved comfortably.

After a water break at the half hour mark, Houston generated a good chance for Ferreira. Latif Blessing took a cross down and set it for the striker, but he hooked his volley just wide of the post.

Ferreira had another chance three minutes later that he should have scored. A looping cross from Aliyu evaded Adilson Malanda on the front post, giving Ferreira a clear look at goal. He whiffed his volley, though, and the cross sailed harmlessly past the far post and out for a goal kick.

Charlotte managed to create a few half-chances as the first half wound down. Abada on the right wing was particularly dangerous but couldn’t execute his final pass or cross.

Nathan Byrne made a goal-saving interception in the 42nd minute after Blessing was put in on goal. The attacker tried to square it across the six-yard box for an easy tap-in, but Byrne positioned himself perfectly to cut out the pass and keep the deficit at one.

Ferreira added to his growing list of missed chances in stoppage time. A one-two with Herrera put him through past Andrew Privett inside the box, and Kahlina got his body in the way of his powerful shot, managing to deflect it off his near post and out for a corner.

Despite a sloppy and disconnected half for Charlotte, Head Coach Dean Smith’s team survived it and only trailed by one goal with a chance to make key adjustments for the second 45 minutes.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen (87’), Bronico, Diani (79’), Bender (45’), Abada, Vargas, Agyemang (67’)

Substitutions: Petkovic (45’), Tavares (67’), Arfield (79’), Smalls (87’)

Dean Smith did elect to make a rare halftime substitution, replacing Ben Bender with Nikola Petkovic in the attacking midfield role and looking for a creative spark to link the midfield with the attack.

The opening ten minutes, though, wasn’t much to write home about. The balance of the match was more even than it was in the first, but both teams were struggling to create clear chances.

The first flash of danger for Charlotte FC came in the 59th minute through Abada again. He battled past Franco Escobar on the right side and slipped a pass into Petkovic, who got two shots away from a tight angle. Clark, though, was up to the task on both and kept the ball out of his net.

Straight after, Agyemang went on one of his trademark bruising runs down the sideline. He faced up one on one on the endline and tightroped past two defenders before just running out of space with the tight angle. A scuffle afterwards between Agyemang and Griffin Dorsey escalated things, but referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere kept his cards in his pocket.

Smith went back to his bench in the 67th minute, bringing on Iuri Tavares in place of Agyemang as the striker. The Portuguese attacker made an impact immediately, drawing a free kick just outside the corner of the box after a dangerous two-footed tackle earned Escobar a yellow card. Jere Uronen elected to square a disguised pass for Brandt Bronico, who was captaining the team in place of the suspended Ashley Westwood. Bronico, though, skied his effort over the bar.

At this point, Charlotte was beginning to ratchet up more offensive pressure. Diani had an excellent chance in the 72nd minute when a deflected cross landed right at his feet, but he also curled his effort over the bar with his weaker right foot.

Tavares continued to be influential since entering the match, and he created the team’s best chance of the game in the 75th minute. With his back to goal, he received a pass from Bronico and neatly backheeled it through for Abada streaking in behind. The winger took one touch and fired at Clark’s near post, but the Dynamo keeper made a strong stop down to his left to preserve the 1-0 lead.

The teams then went to the sidelines for a final water break, setting up a sprint to the finish over the final 12 minutes. Scott Arfield entered during the break, and Diani exited to create a more attack-minded midfield for CLTFC.

Out of the break, Charlotte FC picked up right where they left off – building attacking momentum in search of an equalizer. Tavares had a prime chance in the 81st minute as he snuck past the defenders and just in front of the near post to meet a good Abada cross. The striker, however, couldn’t direct the ball on frame.

Charlotte FC’s final roll of the dice from the bench was Tyger Smalls. Smalls entered the game in place of Uronen, essentially moving CLTFC to a back three and aggressive two-forward setup as they chased the game.

Kahlina made a massive save early on in stoppage time to keep Charlotte in the game, getting down quickly to his right side to palm away Kowalczyk’s effort from outside the box. Ultimately, though, the team came up short in their search for an equalizer and dropped three points on the road.

Charlotte FC return home Wednesday, July 3rd, to face Supporter's Shield leaders Inter Miami. Wednesday will be a crucial match in the Eastern Conference playoff outlook as only three points separate 3rd to 6th place.