Charlotte FC’s hopes of making the MLS Cup Playoffs in their debut season have finally come to an end, but optimism for 2023 is now at an all-time high.
The expansion club enjoyed a remarkable late rise up the standings thanks to a run of three consecutive wins. However, despite heroically coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against the Columbus Crew on Wednesday, a point was not enough to keep the dream alive.
However, the signs have been very promising under interim head coach Christian Lattanzio and the players have proved they can compete at this level. This is just the start.
“I think there’s still more to come, I can see it,” center-back Anton Walkes said after Wednesday’s match at Bank of America Stadium.
“And obviously with our coach, he’s put so much effort and time into the team. I honestly believe we can do more for him. The last four games we have, but obviously we needed to do it a bit more consistently to start off with.
“I just honestly believe with a good preseason we can really start the season strong and show what we’re about.”
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Though their season will come to an end on Decision Day against the New York Red Bulls, Charlotte FC will have plenty of positives to reflect upon.
Sure, they dispensed with their first head coach, Miguel Angel Ramirez, midway through the campaign. However, their response under Lattanzio has been inspired, while CLTFC broke the MLS attendance record, with 74,479 fans showing out for their first-ever home match against the LA Galaxy.
“I’m very, very proud,” Lattanzio said. “I watch our team playing and I enjoy. This is for me very important. I know we are in the professional game, so the result is what people look [at], the scoreboard. But for me, it’s important how we play. Because the better you play, the more chances you have to win games.”
And though they technically have little to play for, Charlotte will still want to beat the Red Bulls on decision day. The Crown remain two places and two points ahead of rivals Atlanta United in the standings but, perhaps more importantly, they have a duty to the rest of the league to perform and an unbeaten run to maintain.
“The last game for us is important because we want to finish well and also because morally we need to honor the league and for the clubs that are still in contention,” Lattanzio said.
“So we need to try to do our best because this is the moral thing to do, but also for us because we wanted to have this mini-season in mind, the last five games. So far we have three wins and a draw, and we want to carry on our momentum.”