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The Full Time Clip: Charlotte FC Secure First Away Win of 2024 with Third Consecutive Shutout

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

CLTFC Club Captain Ashley Westwood scored a stunning second-half free-kick to clinch all three points for The Crown.

First Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Pedro, Westwood, Urso, Petkovic, Smalls, Vargas, Agyemang

In the season's first midweek match, Head Coach Dean Smith went with some rotation in his starting eleven. SuperDraft pick Tyger Smalls made his starting debut on the wing after two appearances off the bench, Joao Pedro deputized for an injured Jere Uronen, and Junior Urso and Nikola Petkovic replaced Djibril Diani and Brandt Bronico, respectively.

Chicago started on the front foot, but the center back pairing of Andrew Privett and Adilson Malanda was steady in the early going to calmly cut out a few danger moments inside the box.

The first clear chance of the match fell the Fire's way in the 16th minute. CLTFC were caught flat-footed on a short corner and allowed a free delivery into the box. Chicago DP striker, Hugo Cuypers, had an excellent chance to flick the ball just inside the six-yard box, but couldn't make enough contact, and it fell straight into Kristijan Kahlina's arms.

Charlotte earned some momentum back over the next 10 minutes with a series of corner kicks and set pieces, but they all came up empty despite some good deliveries.

Cuypers had another good chance in the 27th minute, this time running in behind and taking advantage of Privett's misplay. Kahlina, though, was alert to the danger and made an ultimately simple save at his near post.

CLTFC miscues were the theme of the first half hour. Joao Pedro turned the ball over at midfield to put Chicago on the counter attack in the 31st minute. Xherdan Shaqiri, the Fire's other Designated Player, went for an ambitious chip of Kahlina from just inside the halfway line. Kahlina scrambled well and covered it, but it sailed a few yards too far and onto the top of the net.

Joao Pedro had some bright attacking moments, however. He earned a dangerous free kick early on and sprinted in behind a few minutes after his turnover. He was nearly able to square it across for Patrick Agyemang, but the trailing defender recovered to block it.

From the resulting corner, Privett had a clever flick on a low cross that put Cuypers and Carlos Teran in knots. Cuypers' block caromed off Teran towards their own goal, but the defender cleared it off the line. He banged his knee against the post in an awkward fashion, but after some treatment was able to carry on (after staying off the field for the required two minutes, since the injury didn't result from a yellow card challenge or end in a head injury).

While Charlotte clawed some momentum back with a greater share of possession, the game still reached halftime without any other major chances or moments.

Second Half

Lineup: Kahlina, Byrne, Malanda, Privett, Pedro (87'), Westwood, Urso (61'), Petkovic (70'), Smalls (69'), Vargas, Agyemang (70')

Substitutions: Bronico (61'), Dejaegere (69'), Tavares (70'), Arfield (70'), Lindsey (87')

Dean Smith sent his side back out from the locker room without substitutions to start the second half.

Chicago goalkeeper Chris Brady created a mess for himself just a couple of minutes in, slicing a back pass straight up into the air. Vargas challenged for the ball, and Brady, unable to use his hands after the back pass, hit the ground under pressure. However, referee Victor Rivas was uninterested in the penalty shout.

In the 54th minute, Malanda won a back post header from a corner and put it on frame, but Brady was in position to make a foot save.

Five minutes later, Charlotte FC notched the opening goal of the game, courtesy of a brilliant free kick from captain Ashley Westwood. Agyemang won't earn an assist on the play, but he earned the free kick right down the center of the box after a physical battle with Teran. Westwood then stepped up and curled the ball up and over the wall, nestling it into the corner past an outstretched Brady and running straight to the team bench to celebrate with the team.

Smith had already been prepping his first change before the goal. So, after the celebrations died down, Brandt Bronico replaced Junior Urso in a like-for-like swap.

There were some nervy moments inside the Charlotte FC box in the 65th minute, as a mess of bodies inside the box resulted in Agyemang on the floor and a snapped shot that was cleared by Byrne. The Fire also had a free kick right at the corner of the box minutes later, but Brian Gutierrez's effort flew over Kahlina's bar.

Both teams made rafts of changes at this point with 20 minutes left to play. On the CLTFC side, Agyemang, Smalls, and Petkovic all exited the field and Iuri Tavares, Brecht Dejaegere, and Scott Arfield replaced them.

The match started devolving into a chippy affair. Teran and Agyemang's physical battle started spilling over to the rest of the game as Victor Rivas started dishing out more yellow cards, including one to Agyemang before he exited and Dejaegere soon after entering.

Chicago started pouring on more pressure with late desperation. As the match ticked below 10 minutes remaining, the CLTFC defense successfully stifled a few dangerous moments and prevented shots on goal.

Amid Chicago's relentless pressure, Charlotte managed to exploit gaps in transition. On one occasion, Brecht Dejaegere broke free and delivered a ball that was contested for a potential handball, but VAR ultimately ruled no foul.

Chicago's final chance came when Carlos Teran's shot from a second ball off a corner was spectacularly saved by Kristian Kahlina at the death, denying them a potential point.

That crucial save secured Charlotte's first away victory of the 2024 season, marking three consecutive wins and clean sheets for The Crown as they prepare to host the LA Galaxy on Saturday.

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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