In their very first year, Charlotte FC are exceeding all expectations.
Major League Soccer’s newest club are sitting proudly in eighth on the Eastern Conference table with only NYCFC and the Philadelphia Union boasting better home records.
But CLTFC head into this weekend’s clash at home to the Columbus Crew off the back of two consecutive defeats in MLS to Inter Miami (3-2) and Toronto FC (4-0), either side of a 1-1 friendly draw with Premier League giants Chelsea.
Even so, Charlotte remain just two points behind FC Cincinnati in the final MLS Cup Playoff spot, which is exactly why interim head coach Christian Lattanzio isn’t panicking.
“I still believe that we have got time and we have to focus on one game at a time, prepare the game, play that the strongest with the strongest XI that we can for that team,” he told reporters during the week. “And then we’ll review the week and we go again, I can count on a number of players that are all good and that they can all bring something to the table.
“I understand the urgency, I think we still have got time, but because of that, we can’t wait. We have to start from the next game and each game in that sense becomes very, very important.”
That next game won’t be easy, however. The Crew are enjoying a nine-game unbeaten run in MLS play and, what’s more, now have considerable firepower up-front with Cucho Hernandez – who has scored four goals in his first 227 minutes since joining from Watford.
But coming up against an in-form talent like Hernandez is a challenge CLTFC are relishing.
“We are talking about a team of a certain caliber on top of that they have a striker that is a DP that scored goals in Premier League until a few weeks ago. So now we have to try to impose our game, defend transitions, and break down one of the most solid teams in MLS,” Lattanzio added.
“Defending in transition against some of the best talents in MLS with [Lucas] Zelarayán and [Derrick] Etienne is a good runner, [Luis] Díaz is a good runner. So obviously preparing the game with the boys is a tough challenge. But we will, we will face it, we will embrace it.
“We embrace the challenge and that’s why it’s important to keep in mind the challenge and the progress that we are making on a daily basis as a football club. To give credit to our boys for going out and giving a game to everybody with a lot of courage. Because for me, our boys show it a lot of times, we play with the ball and play so high. They show courage. And that should be at least acknowledged.”