In spite of mistakes, Charlotte shows heart in Orlando
By Steve Goldberg
After a solid performance away against Colorado last week, it looked like it would be another good night for Charlotte FC with attempts by Daniel Rios and Titi Ortiz in the first five minutes. But it wouldn't be long until Orlando City defender Ruan forecast that he would be the offensive star of the match.
The Brazilian right back spent much of his evening in the attack and worked a nifty give-and-go with Facundo Torres before crossing a low hard ball in that was cleared by Christian Makoun, who was back in the starting lineup for Charlotte.
Charlotte's early edge in possession shifted to Orlando and though the game would go from end to end, it was Orlando that looked more dangerous, especially in the 14th minute when Mauricio Pereyra's cheeky looping shot or overhit cross eluded Kristijan Kahlina and rebounded off the crossbar. Kept in play the ball found it's way to the head of Benji Michel whose shot was saved by Kahlina.
Just two minutes later, Michel beat Charlotte defenders on left and put the ball across the box, where Robin
Jansson let it go through to Ruan who ran in unmarked to slot it home, giving Orlando a 1-0 lead.
Unlike last week in Colorado where Charlotte was more often than not first to the ball and fully committed, it was Orlando in their purple kit who rose to the occasion. No surprise that they would be incentivized as they were humiliated on this same field 3-0 last weekend by New York Red Bulls.
While Charlotte would continue to foray into Orlando territory – leading with 5 shots to 4 - it was the Florida team that dominated majority of the first half with three of their four strikes on goal and two of those in it.
There were actually a number of incisive passes that beat defenders and provided nice build-up. Just nothing that took full advantage of them. Too many times, the Crown were not able to make the final connection to create a chance, or misplayed the ball on the way. They weren't playing bad, just a lack of sharpness in closing the deal.
"In the first half, we were not coordinated in the last line (of the offense)," said Charlotte coach Miguel Angel Ramirez. "Daniel (Rios) and Karol (Swiderski) were not coordinated in helping us deliver the game. We were improving and controlling Orlando more.
Then came a play that could affect not just a game but a season.
With their first corner kick of the match coming at the end of the first half in added time, Charlotte made the type of error one might have expected in their first game, certainly not in their tenth.
All ten field players were caught in the offensive third of the pitch when Jordy Alcivar's kick swung out towards the top of the penalty area and was won in the air by Orlando with a looping header that was then cleared upfield by Pereyra. Ruan outpaced everyone to the ball just before midfield and took it all the way into the Charlotte box.
The oldest player on the pitch for Charlotte, Christian Fuchs was on a full sprint to get back, even passing Ortiz, who had been ahead of him, on the way. Corujo was following as well but too many in blue didn't make the effort. The body language wasn't what the Charlotte bench nor fans in the stands wanted to see.
Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina had to come off his line and commit. With Fuchs closing, Ruan neatly slid the ball to his right where Facundo Torres had made the run to slide the ball into an open net. "Usually, we have three players out of the box ready for the counterattack or the second ball or whatever," said Ramirez after the match, admitting that he had yet to review any video of the play. No goal conceded at the end of a half is good but this one, coming off an overly aggressive desire to equalize was devastating.
What would the second half bring?
With Ben Bender coming in for Ortiz, there was no discernible aftereffect of that breakdown. Charlotte looked much like they did in the first half, building opportunities but no clear chances at the goal.
The game also got more physical with multiple collisions and fouls as referee Fotis Bazakos was letting them play except for some soft foul calls inconsistent with some that he had let pass.
A lifeline came in the 58th minute when Alan Franco was played in over the top where he was in on goal between two defenders when Rodrigo Schlegel took him out and a penalty kick was signaled.
Fuchs, the captain, took the ball and the responsibility to the penalty spot where he calmly slotted it to the right of the keeper diving to his left to bring Charlotte back to 2-1. Both teams began to sub in earnest. In the 68th minute, Kamil Jozwiak came on for Rios. Eight minutes later, Sergio Ruiz replaced Alan Franco, and Harrison Afful replaced Jaylin Lindsey. 81m – McKInze Gaines spelled Alcivar in the 81st minute.
The last 20 minutes were ripe with tension and urgency as Charlotte continually pressed for an equalizer but were still unable to create actual chances. Lots of drama but little of substance. The most important takeaway is that this team was able to put a mistake behind them, stay focused on the game and play a competitive match. After a difficult three game stretch on the road, the Crown returns to Charlotte for the next three, starting with an improving Inter Miami next Saturday.
Charlotte FC Starting XI:
Kahlina (GK), Corujo, Makoun, Fuchs ©, Lindsey (Afful 75’), Alcívar (Gaines 82’) Ortiz (Bender 46’), Bronico, Franco (Ruiz 75’), Swiderski, Rios (Józwiak 68’)
Orlando SC Starting XI:
Gallese, Ruan (Smith 81’), Moutinho Jansson, Schlegel, Araujo (Méndez 75’), Pereyra ©, Urso (Perea 66’), Michel (van der Water 81’), Kara (Pato 66’), Torres
16’ – ORL – Ruan
45’ + 1’ – ORL – Torres
60’ – CLT – Fuchs (PK)
18’ – ORL – Yellow Card, Ruan
28’ – CLT – Yellow Card, Corujo
54’ – CLT – Yellow Card, Alcívar
59’ – ORL – Yellow Card, Schlegel
60’ – CLT – Yellow Card, Broncio
88’ – ORL – Yellow Card, Jansson