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Charlotte FC Grind Out Home Opener Victory Over New York City FC

February 24, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release

Adilson Malanda scored off a corner early in the second half to secure three points for Charlotte FC on the opening day of the 2024 MLS season.

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Urso, Dejaegere, Vargas, Tavares, Copetti

CLTFC got off to a storming start to the 2024 season on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium. After the Club failed to score in the first two home openers in 2022 and 2023, Adilson Malanda fired home the game's opening goal from a corner kick just eight minutes in.

Brecht Dejaegere's delivery found Iuri Tavares on the front post, whose header crashed down off the crossbar. The Portuguese striker, elevated from Crown Legacy FC to the First Team this offseason, initially celebrated the goal, but it was Malanda who powered it fully across the line from point blank range.

On the other end minutes later, Andrew Privett made a vital lunging tackle on Mousef Bakrar, who was through on goal 1-on-1 against Kahlina.

From there, the opening half of the game settled into a steady back-and-forth rhythm. NYCFC dominated possession, but CLTFC looked very comfortable defending with their lines compact and did not allow any significant chances.

In the 33rd minute, Enzo Copetti was nearly gifted a goal as he almost intercepted a wayward back pass to Matt Freese, the NYCFC goalkeeper. Right away on the other end, Kristijan Kahlina made a sharp save down to his right on Bakrar to preserve the lead.

Despite a few dangerous free kick opportunities for New York City over the final few minutes, CLTFC got to halftime holding a 1-0 advantage.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Uronen, Westwood, Urso, Dejaegere, Vargas, Tavares, Copetti

Substitutions: Arfield In, Dejaegere Out; Berchimas In, Vargas Out; Pedro In, Tavares Out

For the opening 15 minutes of the second half, neither side was giving an inch. Both teams showed great structure, organization, and discipline in a real tactical battle that was devoid of clear chances.

Then, the breakthrough seemed to come in the 64th minute, as Kerwin Vargas flicked the ball over Kevin O'Toole's head inside the box. The defender turned to shield Vargas and clearly struck the ball with his hand, which the referee gave as a penalty after a video review a few minutes later.

Vargas earned the chance, and so Vargas took the penalty, but Matt Freese came up big in the moment to save down to his right.

Five minutes later, the Colombian winger got a second great chance after Junior Urso intercepted a ball in midfield and found him running in behind. Vargas went slightly wide with his second touch, and Freese closed down the angle well to make the save.

CLTFC nearly rued those missed chances in the 75th minute, when Santiago Rodriguez found the ball at his feet on the penalty spot after Nathan Byrne missed a header. The right back scrambled back to put the pressure on, and Rodriguez blazed his excellent chance over the bar to let Charlotte off the hook.

Head Coach Dean Smith made his first change shortly after, bringing on Scott Arfield in favor of Dejaegere. Then, he made the substitution many in the stadium were waiting for, bringing on Homegrown Nimfasha Berchimas for his MLS debut in the 84th minute.

Berchimas, who only turned 16 two days prior, didn't get much of a chance to impact the game as Charlotte FC defended deep to see out the result. Joao Pedro, also elevated from Crown Legacy FC last year like Tavares, entered late on for his MLS NEXT Pro teammate.

Ultimately, despite possession-dominance by NYCFC, they were never able to break down the Charlotte FC defensive structure. Kahlina was rarely called into action in the second half, with his best save remaining as his first half stop on Bakrar, and the Crown won their first home opener in three tries to get the season off to the best possible start.

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