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The Full Time Clip: Charlotte FC Extend Shutout Streak to Five Games in Draw Against the Philadelphia Union

May 25, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release

CLTFC are unbeaten in five matches; Designated Player Liel Abada made his return from injury in the 80th minute.

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Pedro, Westwood, Diani, Petkovic, Tavares, Vargas, Agyemang

Saturday night in Charlotte was a beautiful night for soccer. The lower bowl was packed, and the vibes were high as the team entered with a four-match shutout and unbeaten streak.

Charlotte FC was active early on the offensive end with a big chance for Nikola Petkovic, who Head Coach Dean Smith brought back into the starting lineup as the attacking midfielder. Iuri Tavares battled Nathan Harriel on the left and drove inside, forcing center-back Jakob Glesnes to step. Tavares slipped it into the vacated space inside the box for Petkovic, but the shot was stopped well at a tight angle by Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Oliver Semmle.

In the 18th minute on the other end, the Union had a massive chance to open the scoring. Julian Carranza headed a deep cross back across the goal for Daniel Gazdag, but Philadelphia's leading goal scorer hit the chance right at Kristijan Kahlina from point-blank range. For his part, the Croatian reacted quickly with a good kick save to keep the score level.

Tavares had an impactful first half on the left wing. He nearly got on the end of a Nathan Byrne cross in the 23rd minute, then blazed past Harriel in the 29th with multiple stepovers to get to the byline, nearly finding Kerwin Vargas with a cutback.

While both teams pride themselves on their defensive foundations, the match was open and end-to-end throughout the first half. Both teams piled up half-chances and shots from a distance, consistently attacking each other with fast counterattacks.

In the 44th minute, Andrew Privett - freshly signed to a new contract this week - made a vital intervention, cutting out a cross intended for an open Carranza on the front post. His lunging touch put the ball out for a corner but narrowly missed going into his own goal at the near post.

After a few more end-to-end moments, referee Guido Gonzales Jr. blew the halftime whistle without adding any stoppage time.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Pedro, Westwood, Diani, Petkovic (71'), Tavares (71'), Vargas (80'), Agyemang

Substitutions: Arfield (71'), Smalls (71'), Abada (80')

The second half began similarly to the first. CLTFC stayed on the front foot, generating dangerous moments without quite connecting the final pass. Philadelphia threatened with flashes of danger of their own, particularly when Adilson Malanda misplayed a long ball and allowed their forwards to get in behind, but the Union couldn't take advantage of it.

After a somewhat sleepy first 20 minutes of the half, Kerwin Vargas brought it back to life in the 64th minute. He took down a long ball from Nathan Byrne - in outlandish fashion - and played it inside to Ashley Westwood before getting bowled over by Harriel (who picked up a yellow card). The referee first played advantage, though, and Westwood slotted in for Tavares, whose shot was blocked inside the box.

Three minutes later, both teams had huge chances. On one end, Privett turned the ball over in his defensive third, and Carranza got a shot away, but Kahlina stood tall for the save. Straight away on the other end, Tavares drove at Harriel and cut it back to the top of the box for Djibril Diani. The Frenchman went for a one-time finish with his weaker right foot but couldn't guide it on frame.

Tavares and Diani renewed their connection a minute later, but Diani's shot this time was blocked by a sliding defender out for a corner.

As the game approached the 70-minute mark without a breakthrough, both coaches - Dean Smith for Charlotte and Jim Curtin for Philadelphia - looked to their benches for answers. Smith replaced Petkovic with Scott Arfield and Tavares with Tyger Smalls, while Curtin brought on veteran Alejandro Bedoya for Mikael Uhre.

Privett nearly found the winner in the 77th minute with a free header from a Westwood corner kick. He was unable to generate enough power on the out-swinging corner, though, and it bounced directly into Semmle's arms.

Liel Abada made his return to the field in the 80th minute after missing the first part of May due to a thigh injury. He replaced Vargas on the right wing.

He immediately combined with Arfield in a combo up the right side to get the ball to Agyemang, who was fouled by Glesnes on top of the box. The resulting free kick was a mirror image of Ashley Westwood's match-winner against Chicago. This time, though, the wall did its job with a jumping block of the captain's free kick.

Abada continued to show his worth with a blistering run past Kai Wagner. He rounded the corner and began driving at the goal up the endline but was blocked off before delivering a cross. On the other end, a turnover inside CLTFC's box led to a free shot, but Malanda placed his body perfectly in front of the goal for a key block.

In the 88th minute, Abada flashed danger again with a great shot to the far post, but Semmle dove to push it wide for a corner.

Charlotte kept pushing for the game-winning goal, generating several half chances for The Crown, but they couldn't break the deadlock. Despite this, they have now gone five consecutive matches without conceding a goal, extending their impressive record.

Next, they face another midweek away challenge against the New York Red Bulls.

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