In a battle of the Queen Cities, Charlotte FC downs Cincinnati 2-0
By Steve Goldberg
During my college days, there was a saying painted on the wall of the weight room used by the University of Georgia football team, you know, the gridiron ones who are current national champions.
It read, "If we score, we may win. If they never score, we will never lose."
The same holds true for real football where scoring is far more precious. And that's why Charlotte FC's first clean sheet – soccer parlance for a shoutout – in a 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati was so important for this young team which had surrendered seven goals in its first four matches.
And this wasn't the FC Cincinnati that lost its first two matches 5-0 and 1-0 to Austin and DC United but one that had rebounded to win its last two over Orlando and Inter Miami 2-1 and 3-1.
On the other side of that equation though, while a clean sheet might promise no worse than a draw, not scoring makes that the only possible positive result. The newest club in MLS was slow out of the gate on offense, scoring once in its first three games.
They've now hit the net five times in the last two matches, each one featuring two goals by Karol Swiderski. His total of four is tied for tops in MLS with three other players.
Swiderski opened the scoring in the 6th minute after rookie midfielder Ben Bender was played through by Daniel Rios and slotted the ball across the goalmouth from six yards out on the left. Sergio Ruiz, positioned just in front of the goal, let it go on to Swiderski on the far post who nailed it back across the goal into the net. It was the rookie Bender's third assist on the season, equal with five others for the league lead.
His second came on a free kick after Sergio Ruiz was fouled by Yuya Kubo just outside the top right of the 18-yard box facing the goal. Swiderski and Fuchs, both primary left-footers stood over the ball.
But it was Swiderski, a man collecting nicknames like goals these days -Swigoalski, the Polish Pistol, Goalderski, among others – who laced it into the side netting of the far post to give Charlotte a two-goal lead in the 55th minute over the outstretched arms of Alec Kann.
Injured with a hamstring strain towards the end of last Saturday's win over New England, coach Miguel Angel Ramirez said it was a last-minute decision for Swiderski to start, based on the player's input and desire as well as consultation from the medical staff.
"For that I prefer him to start the game," said Ramirez, noting that he didn't want to risk a potential two substitutions with the same player. Swiderski played a full 90 minutes before stepping off in added time for defender Anton Walkes.
Charlotte keeper Kristijan Kahlina had been the man-of-the-match for his team in the first three games for his heroic efforts in losing causes. He received the same honor today, which went to two-goal scorer Swiderski last week, as he snuffed out chance after chance by Cincinnati throughout the match.
In the 32nd minute, Christian Fuchs was dispossessed at the top of the Charlotte box with the ball finding its way into the path of the onrushing attacker Brandon Vasquez who tried to slot it to Kahlina's right as the keeper dropped to his left but was able to make a kick save.
In the 43rd minute, Luciano Acosta whipped a bending shot from just outside the left top corner of the box with his right foot that was hooking into the far post when Kahlina launched sideways to his left to palm the ball away.
In the 46th minute, defender Alvas Powell found himself in alone in the box with the ball at his feet. Charlotte's Joseph Mora rushed in only to have Powell pull the ball to his left foot as Mora slid by. Kahlina had come off his line and smothered the left-footed shot.
In the 69th minute, he dove to his right to parry the Brazilian striker Brenners' low, curving drive from about 18 yards out on the right.
After the match Sergio Ruiz went to his coach and mentioned that he hadn't started a game since September. Without words, he let Ramirez know that his beginning the match today was a tremendous boost to his confidence. "He said it all with one hug," said Ramirez.
"It was a long time since my last time in the starting eleven," Ruiz told the media afterwards. "I'm really happy. I'm grateful."
“You can feel the camaraderie on the pitch, despite us all playing together for the first time, coming from all over the world, we are unified. We have an incredible group of humans and it’s being reflected on the pitch. Doesn’t matter who plays, we always have quality, and that’s a testament of our core.”
Charlotte FC Starting XI: Kahlina (GK), Lindsey, Corujo, Fuchs ©, Mora, Jones (Bronico 74’), Alcívar (Afful 90+2’), Ruiz (Ortíz 74’), Bender, Ríos (Reyna 85’), Świderski (Walkes 90+2’) Unused Substitutes: Gaines, Santos, Sobocinski, Marks (GK) FC Cincinnati Starting XI: Kann (GK), Powell (Gaddis 59’), Hagglund, Cameron, Blackett, Kubo (Cruz 83’), Acosta ©, Moreno (Medunjanin 78’), Badji (Markanich 84’), Vazquez, Barreal (Brenner 59’) Unused Substitutes: Ordonez, Robledo, Murphy, Vermeer (GK) Goals: 6’ – CLT – Świderski (Assist: Bender, Ríos) 55’ – CLT – Świderski Discipline: 75’ – FCC – Badji (Foul) 85’ – FCC – Cameron (Foul)