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Charlotte FC Takes Mental Stride in Third Straight Win

May 16, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release

Charlotte FC Head Coach Dean Smith insisted on a mental shift from his team heading into the match against the Chicago Fire. Up until this point, The Crown had yet to earn a win on the road. However, the team felt confident about changing their fortunes at Soldier Field, a place where they'd previously won every encounter.

While it wasn't the prettiest of wins, the boys in blue showed grit and resilience to grind out a 1-0 win, extending their consecutive win and clean sheet streak to three - a first in the Club's history.

"I saw the mentality, but I didn't see a game of football that I liked. It certainly won't make the highlight reel," remarked Smith following the win. "It wasn't a thriller of any sort. It was an untidy game from both teams but we showed real good mentality to limit them to few chances, and we took the one we had from a set piece."

Captain Ashley Westwood continues to live up to his reputation of only scoring jaw-dropping goals with his game-winning free-kick. When his team needed him most, the skipper once again came up clutch for his side.

"That's my range," smirked Westwood. "Everything felt right tonight, and I knew as I stepped up I had a good chance.

Although Westwood's free-kick will undoubtedly receive acclaim, achieving the 1-0 win wouldn't have been feasible without maintaining a clean sheet. This was especially crucial in the final 20 minutes of the match, where Charlotte has historically conceded the most goals on the road. Nonetheless, the team rallied and defended cohesively as a unit.

"We've got a really good structure which makes it difficult for the opposition, and today was another example of that," said Smith regarding the team's defensive stretch.

The center-back pairing of Adilson Malanda and Andrew Privett for Charlotte has excelled in minimizing threats to goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina throughout the season. Nonetheless, when Kahlina was called upon in this match, he rose to the occasion, making outstanding saves at the death to preserve the victory.

"He was called upon at the end to make two good saves...," remarked Smith. "They were shooting from areas where I expect him to save. Such is the caliber of the keeper [he is], and he's not letting us down.

"He deserves those three clean sheets on the spin."

Charlotte didn't just secure their inaugural away victory of the season; they did it while surmounting extra hurdles like the absence of key players and a tight match schedule. This display marks a significant mental leap for the team, signaling to the entire MLS that Charlotte FC is a force to be reckoned with.

"It wasn't a pretty performance, but the main thing is we've come here and shown character," said Westwood. "A lot of people have been saying we can't win on the road. So, we've shown a lot of people up tonight by digging in and working hard, and showing we've got personality."

Charlotte are going to need that personality as they host one of the league's top teams, LA Galaxy, this weekend. The last encounter between The Crown and the Galaxy was Charlotte's inaugural home match on March 5th, 2022, where the visitors narrowly secured a 1-0 victory. Although both teams have undergone significant changes since then, the high stakes remain the same.

May 18 | East Coast Meets West Coast | vs LA Galaxy

The Crown hosts LA Galaxy on Saturday May 18th as the Mayhem continues in the Queen City! Arrive early to score a Charlotte FC scarf presented by Carolina Ford Dealers.

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