Match Preview

The Full Time Clip: Charlotte FC Fall Late at New York City FC 


Kerwin Vargas opened the scoring early in the first half, but CLTFC was unable to keep the lead in the team’s second consecutive loss

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Urso, Petkovic, Abada, Vargas, Copetti

In their first-ever match at Yankee Stadium, Charlotte FC got off to a flying start. Kerwin Vargas was the main man, first earning a chance 60 seconds into the match that New York City FC goalkeeper Matt Freese saved well. However, just two minutes later, he smashed home the opening goal.

Nikola Petkovic – getting just his second start of the season – created the chance, effectively spinning an NYCFC defender and sending in a cross towards Enzo Copetti charging hard on the front post. Thiago Martins flicked it clear but it landed at Vargas’ feet, who fired it past a helpless Freese off the upper 90 post and into the back of the net.

NYCFC rallied immediately with some pressure, with Agustin Ojeda forcing Kristijan Kahlina into a relatively simple save at his near post.

CLTFC, though, were the ones with the next massive chance through Liel Abada in the 8th minute. A turnover in midfield led to some quick play between Copetti and Petkovic to slot in for Abada on the right side. However, Freese charged out quickly to deny the shot and a second goal (and second assist for Petkovic).

Despite Charlotte’s early big chances, NYCFC had the run of play over the rest of the opening quarter hour. A few free kicks and corners for the hosts were dangerous but well defended. The most notable moment came in the 25th minute when Kahlina bravely charged off his line to clear the ball away from an onrushing Monsef Bakrar, taking a heavy collision in the process.

In the 32nd minute, NYCFC won a free kick outside the box right in line with the middle of the goal. Santiago Rodriguez – who leads the team with four goals and has a free kick goal already this season – whipped it up and over the wall, forcing Kahlina to make an impressive diving save that pushed it off the crossbar and over.

A few minutes later, CLTFC turned it over in midfield to create a two on two counter attack. Julian Fernandez slalomed his way through the scrambling Charlotte defense, but Kahlina once again stood brave by closing down the angle and making a solid stop.

The Crown showed a quick flash of danger on the other end, with Liel Abada breaking through on the right side and firing a low cross to Vargas, who couldn’t quite beat Freese to the ball at the near post.

Unfortunately, New York City’s pressure on set pieces paid off with five minutes left in the half. Keaton Parks rose highest on a free kick, powering his header past Kahlina for the equalizer. It appeared there was contact between Parks and Petkovic at the top of the box, which sent Petkovic to the ground in pain. However, after a waiting period, the referee confirmed the goal would stand despite CLTFC protests.

Charlotte then had to deal with 10 minutes of first half stoppage time. They effectively clawed some momentum and possession back, standing firm to reach halftime equal with one goal apiece.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen (75’), Westwood, Urso, Petkovic (63’), Abada (84’), Vargas (84’), Copetti (63’)

Substitutions: Agyemang (63’), Dejaegere (63’), Lindsey (75’), Smalls (84’), Tavares (84’)

The second half started with scrappy play on both sides. The opening 10 minutes went by with quite a few fouls, yellow cards for Kerwin Vargas and Ashley Westwood (the third for CLTFC after an early yellow earned by Junior Urso), and some half chances.

Yankee Stadium exploded in the 55th minute when it seemed Bakrar had grabbed the lead for the hosts, but his finish was ruled out when the offside flag went up.

In the 60th, it was CLTFC’s turn to think they had taken the lead, only for the offside flag to rob them. On a short corner kick delivery, Copetti rose higher than Freese to win a header and Jere Uronen volleyed the loose ball home. However, the Finnish left but was denied his opening goal of the season as he was judged offside on the Copetti header.

The offside flag was then ruling the day. Soon after, Petkovic had a great chance denied by Freese. This time, Copetti was very clearly offside in the buildup.

That chance was the two players’ last action on the field. Head Coach Dean Smith made his first two changes in the 63rd minute, replacing them with Patrick Agyemang and Brecht Dejaegere.

Agyemang made an immediate impact, holding the ball up and slipping in Abada, but the winger’s touch in behind took a slight deflection off the defender and into Freese’s arms.

NYCFC had a good chance straight away in response when Byrne was forced to dummy a cross rather than risk an own goal, but Ojeda blasted his curling effort over the bar. Bakrar likely should have taken the lead in the 68th minute; he rocketed a chance from a tight angle off the near post and into Kahlina, who was rooted to the spot. Luckily, the deflection caromed behind for a corner rather than into the goal.

The pressure continued to pile on, and Kahlina continued to deliver saves. In the 73rd minute, Rodriguez ripped a long-range effort towards the bottom corner, and the Croatian made a solid diving stop low to his right.

Right after that, Uronen was subbed off and Jaylin Lindsey subbed on to fill the left back spot.

As the match crept towards the 80th minute and the rain began to fall again, Charlotte carved out some control and a higher percentage of the possession. Dejaegere was lively, skipping past two defenders on the byline and crossing into a crowded area where the deflections wouldn’t fall CLTFC’s way.

Smith made his last two substitutions in the 84th minute, bringing on two new wingers in exchange for Vargas and Abada. Iuri Tavares came onto the left, and SuperDraft pick Tyger Smalls made his MLS debut on the right.

The substitutes wasted no time asserting their impact as they combined for a promising scoring chance. Tavares skillfully maneuvered with the ball in the box, evading defenders before delivering a lofted pass to Smalls stationed at the far post. Smalls adeptly anticipated the ball's flight, executing a precise strike. However, their hopes for a goal were dashed as a defender from NYC held his ground and blocked the shot.

However, after some defensive errors in an NYCFC buildup deep into stoppage time, Nathan Byrne was left outnumbered in the box when a sweeping cross from Santi Rodríguez found Alonso Martinez, who seized the opportunity to tap in the winning goal.

The evening concluded with a scary moment as NYCFC's Thiago Martins suffered an apparent head injury, though he fortunately managed to leave the field under his own power.

Adding to the disappointment, Charlotte's unbeaten streak against NYCFC ended in a 2-1 defeat, marking the first loss to The Pigeons since their inception in 2022. The Crown now returns to the Queen City, where they are set to play four out of their next five matches.

Four Saturdays. Four Matches. For The Crown.

Four Saturdays. Four Matches. For The Crown.

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