Karol Swiderski

Charlotte FC’s pursuit of an Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs berth as an expansion club remains alive, thanks in large part to Karol Swiderski.

The Polish international striker scored two second-half goals, first in the 68th minute and then in the 96th minute, to help earn a 3-2 comeback victory Saturday evening at Chicago Fire FC, eliminating their hosts from postseason contention in the process.

The Queen City side is now in 10th place, three points back of the Eastern Conference’s playoff line. They need to make up ground with three games to go, but the door is ajar – even if ever so slightly.

“I think before when we won the games and we come for next week, we start to play a little bit soft,” Swiderski said. “We had too much confidence. But in this week, it was fantastic. This week was really good.

“ … This is what we need,” the 25-year-old added. “This gives us power in the game and I'm so happy because after 2-0, to come back to win the game, it's unbelievable.”

Swiderski has reached 10 goals and five assists on the year through 28 games (27 starts), standings as the nascent club’s leading scorer. While Swiderski is well off the Golden Boot presented by Audi pace, it’s easy to see why Charlotte spent a reported $5 million to acquire their first-ever Designated Player from Greece’s PAOK ahead of their late-February opener.

Interim head coach Christian Lattanzio even handed Swiderski the captain’s armband with defender Christian Fuchs suspended (red card), rewarding the forward’s impact on the squad.

“He's an international player for a reason,” Lattanzio said. “He's leaving us tonight to go and join Poland. Poland is a very good team that will play in the World Cup. He's in the squad, so to be part of a squad of such ability, you need to have that kind of moves.”

Added Lattanzio: "I'm not suspired by the goal that he scored and I wanted him to lead us, to be one of the leaders like he was tonight. That's what I want from him, as well as his abilities."

Internationally, Swiderski features up top alongside FC Barcelona star Robert Lewandowski and former New England Revolution star Adam Buksa, who’s now playing in France for RC Lens. UEFA Nations League games are on the horizon for them, then they’ll enter Group C play at the World Cup in November.

His return stateside will coincide with Charlotte’s do-or-die final games, starting with welcoming Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union on Oct. 1, and then hosting Columbus Crew on Oct. 5 and visiting the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 9.

The Crown will need their talisman to produce, whether he’s in the No. 9 or No. 10 role. Swiderski, with his dynamic left foot, has shifted between the positions this year.

“We all know that he's an incredible player,” said midfielder Nuno Santos, who scored his first goal upon arriving this summer from Portuguese side Benfica. “We all know that he can do things like that in certain moments of the game. So it's good to be a partner with a guy who sometimes shows a little bit of magic. That's what happened today. We are glad to have him here.”