MLS has brought SEC-style Southern rivalries into North American soccer with engaging and developing derbies shared among Nashville SC, Orlando City SC and Atlanta United. With Charlotte FC's 1-0 win over Atlanta on Sunday – a bit of payback for Atlanta's opening win over CTL FC four weeks ago – MLS's newest franchise has announced itself as a significant player in the region.
For Charlotte head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, defeating the Five Stripes speaks volumes, particularly considering his club's roster is not as developed and robust as Atlanta's.
"This is the magic of football. There's a difference of $80 million between Atlanta United and Charlotte FC squads," he said postgame. "This is why we love football. Because anyone can beat anyone."
With many considering Atlanta their closest rival in MLS, the result made a statement for Charlotte. Of course, rivalries develop over time with special moments that pump up their respective fan bases, be they with delirium or anger. For Atlanta fans in the first tilt between the clubs on March 13, that came with Jake Mulraney's 96th-minute match-winner that literally left Charlotte players crumpled on the turf in exhaustion and despair. For Charlotte fans on Sunday, it was a Jordy Alcivar Olimpico in the 13th minute that allowed CLT fans to admire both the scoreboard and the high degree of difficulty in what turned out to be the return leg's only goal.
"Jody is un sinverguenza (shameless), as we say in Spain," said Ramirez with a smirk, adding in Spanish that players like Alcivar thrive on playing what he calls "street soccer."
"Of course we don't practice a goal from the corner but Jordy knows how to kick," he added.
Sunday's wonder goal is proof that Alcívar is getting more and more used to his new surroundings, after spending the entirety of his career before this season in his native Ecuador with L.D.U. Quito.
“In the beginning, it was very complicated to find my rhythm, but I think I started getting annoyed and just kept working hard. I wanted to get used to the MLS rhythm, and I think slowly I started getting there," the 22-year-old said.
“I only played for one club in Ecuador, and it's completely different."
As for his Man-of-the-Match performance, Alcívar hopes it gets him that much closer to a spot on Ecuador's World Cup roster this year.
"The possibility of getting called up to the national team is what drives me, but whatever happens happens," the Young DP said.
Though the victory was fantastic for a franchise looking for signature wins in their debut season, it's also part of a home body of work that's so far impressive for a first-year team. While it's still a small sample size at this stage of the season, Charlotte's put together three wins in their first four home matches with a goal differential of +4. While that's not quite on the level of a still-undefeated Union side or even a playoff-capable Austin FC team not so far removed from their expansion season, it's solid enough to put Charlotte in playoff position about a sixth of the way through the season.
Still, it's much early for Ramirez and his team to start getting ahead of themselves. At the moment the coach is just fine knowing that his players are capable of competing.
"Not at any moment did I think we were going to lose. We can compete and win against giants," he said. "They invited us to the dance, and we don't dance that bad."
Ramirez went into the season declaring "estamos jodidos" (we're screwed) to express his frustration around building a complete-enough roster to compete in the league. But given the emergence of Karol Swiderski as a legitimate goal-scoring threat, the positive play of No. 1 SuperDraft pick Ben Bender and Alciver's obvious skills, might it be that Charlotte are jodidos no longer?