Charlotte FC content to "let people talk" after blitzing Orlando City


After three straight losses to start the 2023 MLS campaign, Charlotte FC needed a positive result in the worst way going into their Matchday 4 away fixture at Orlando City SC.

They got one, taking a 2-1 victory over their Eastern Conference rivals and accruing what the second-year side hope can be some positive momentum after the down start.

"It feels really good," head coach Christian Lattanzio said postgame. "And I am very, very proud of the boys because they played a complete game in the sense that they attacked when they had the possibility to do it. They defended when they had to. In football, you need to fight to impose your game and impose yourself into the game. And I think that this has to be a part of our DNA."

New-look lineup

The result was delivered by a new-look starting XI from those opening three defeats, with Designated Player attackers Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jóźwiak each starting the match on the bench, replaced by Kerwin Vargas and McKinze Gaines. Both fullbacks were also switched, with veteran Harrison Afful slotting in at left back and Jaylin Lindsey drawing the start at right back. Brandt Bronico also returned to midfield.

Those turned out to be the right buttons for Lattanzio, as Charlotte put on their most complete performance of the season. Vargas in particular capitalized on the opportunity with his 37th-minute goal that stood as the game-winner. Also encouraging was forward Enzo Copetti's 26th-minute opener, the Argentine's second MLS goal.

"I made the changes because we played three games and I gave certain players opportunities to play and I think it's only fair to give other players opportunities when things don't work the way we'd like them to work," Lattanzio explained. "It's part of the team, that's why we have a roster and on many occasions I said that I really trust all the players on the roster because they train well.

"I think everybody was working well. And I saw the guys that were keeping working and deserved a chance and they responded well. ... We decided to give opportunities to guys that trained well, and they proved it."

Building blocks

Given the early-season struggles leading up to Saturday's match, a road victory in a hostile environment can only boost the squad's morale as they return home for a Matchday 5 bout with the New York Red Bulls at Bank of America Stadium next Saturday (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

The victory is step one of changing the early narrative surrounding the club, rookie goalkeeper George Marks said, but it only means something if they can channel it into a sustained run of results in the coming weeks.

"I think take tonight to celebrate a little bit, it's a big milestone to win the first game of the season in this fashion away," said Marks, who made his first start of the season in goal. "But tomorrow it's back to the grindstone, try to look at the performance objectively, not just throw it to the side because we won the game and try to look at the little details, what we could do better, what we need to continue to do, so we can get this thing rolling in the right direction."

Added Lattanzio: "I said during the week not to talk, to put the head down, keep working. And despite the win, for me it's the same. We keep the head down, we let other people talk now. We let people talk, we listen, whatever, but we are very determined to improve on a weekly basis".

Lions letdown

On the other side, it was another gut-punch result for Orlando City after the Lions bowed out to Tigres in heartbreaking fashion earlier this week in Concacaf Champions League play, drawing the Liga MX power 1-1 on aggregate but getting eliminated via the away goals tiebreaker in the Round of 16.

With their focus now turned back to the league campaign, Orlando are in the midst of more early-season adversity than they would have hoped, with Saturday's defeat dropping them to 1W-1L-2D through Matchday 4. Defender Rafael Santos said it's up to the players to learn from the challenging stretch and get their season back on track.

“This is going to be a learning lesson," Santos said. "There's never going to be an easy opponent and we know that the next one isn't going to be an easy opponent either. It's true, it's been a tough week. We just came out of the game against Tigres, which was a big tournament, a big team.

"And now we're obviously playing once again in Major League Soccer. But this is going to be a learning lesson. We're always going to fight for this shirt, for the club. We're always going to look for the victory and chase the victory just like we did on Wednesday, just like we did today again. But again, there isn't going to be an easy opponent. Each and every one of our opponents is going to be difficult and we just learn game by game.”