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Match Preview: Charlotte FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC

March 1, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release

Charlotte FC started their third season with a bang on the opening day, notching a 1-0 victory over New York City FC in front of 62,291 fans at Bank of America Stadium. New Head Coach Dean Smith has yet to lose a game in charge, leading the team to three wins and three draws in preseason and now his first regular season win.

Up next, Smith and the squad get their first taste of difficult MLS away travel with a cross-country flight to Canada for a match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Match: Charlotte FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC

When: Saturday, March 2

Where: BC Place

Kickoff: 7:30pm ET

Watch: FREE on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV - How to Watch & Listen

Listen: WFNZ 92.7 FM (English) & WOLS 106.1 FM (Spanish)

For all other radio station affiliates in the Carolinas, click here.

Overcoming MLS Travel

Charlotte FC secured a victory at home in their season opener last weekend. However, playing at home in MLS is one of the biggest advantages in world soccer, a fact especially true for a CLTFC team playing in front of huge, passionate crowds every time out at Bank of America Stadium.

Playing away in MLS is very challenging. One of the primary factors contributing to that trend is the difficult travel scenarios the league presents with a geographical spread across both coasts of the United States and Canada.

This weekend, Head Coach Dean Smith will get his first taste of that notorious MLS travel with one of the most difficult trips: a 5-plus hour flight to Vancouver across three time zones. Previously, the Englishman has only coached in the United Kingdom, a country roughly the size of the state of Oregon, just south of where CLTFC will be on Saturday.

"[I'm curious as to] whether it's going to be like a 5-hour bus journey in the UK," Smith said in his Thursday press conference. "Or is it a five-hour plane ride that will really take it out of you?"

"I've got to sample that for the first time, but it's led by our performance and coaching teams who have done it many times before."

On Saturday, it will be pivotal for the entire CLTFC technical staff to make sure the players are prepared and ready to perform physically on the back of a huge travel day.

Improving on the Ball

Charlotte FC took down NYCFC with a defense-focused approach last Saturday. The team took an early lead through Adilson Malanda's 8th minute goal and protected it extremely effectively through the rest of the match. Kristijan Kahlina had very little to do through the 90 minutes.

Dean Smith has emphasized an approach that is "hard to beat", rating their defensive performance as an "8 out of 10" in the home opener.

Therefore, the base of the team is in good shape defensively. However, when asked about what he wanted to improve this week in training, Smith shared:

"Probably how we link it up in the final third. I thought some of our build up to the halfway [line] was was quite good. But then, how do we link it in the opposition half, where we're looking to get our runners into where we can combine in the different crossing areas [to create good chances]?"

Improvement in possession will be vital for Smith's team to pick up valuable road points, both now and throughout the season.

The Opponent

"My approach is 80% concentrating on ourselves and 20% on the opposition," said Dean Smith on Thursday. "You're not in control of what the opposition does. But it gives you a good insight into their strengths and weaknesses. And you have to nullify their strengths and play to your strengths over their weaknesses."

That quote could likely lead off this section of the Match Preview every single week. There is value to scouting and understanding what problems the opponent may present. Ultimately, though, the coaching staff also need to focus the majority of their effort on controlling what they can control: their team.

So, let's jump into a brief overview of Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

The Whitecaps are the only MLS team to not kick off their regular season yet. They had a bye on the first matchday due to the uneven number of teams in MLS.

However, they have played in Concacaf Champions Cup already, crashing out to Tigres UANL of Mexico by a 4-1 aggregate scoreline. There is insight to be gleaned from those two competitive matches.

The Canadian team sets up in variations of a 3-4-3, taking advantage of attack-minded wingbacks to support a forward line featuring Brian White (15 goals, 5 assists in 2023) and Ryan Gauld (11 goals, 12 assists in 2023).

Caleb Adams broke down how The Crown can take advantage of the Vancouver tactical setup for their own gain by exploiting the wide areas.

The Season (and Preseason) So Far

Charlotte FC won their first match of the season over NYCFC with a gritty 1-0 win at home. Previously, they had wrapped up a five-week preseason, with an opening stint in Miami, Florida and a closing stint in Indio, California for the Coachella Valley Invitational.

The team has gelled well under Head Coach Dean Smith, and his direct, efficient principles of play have quickly become apparent. CLTFC have kept five straight clean sheets, including preseason matches.

Now, the attention turns to a pivotal stint of three road matches in three weeks ahead of two home games against the defending MLS Cup Champions (Columbus Crew) and defending Supporter's Shield Champions (FC Cincinnati).

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