Many on the outside have given up on Charlotte FC’s MLS Cup Playoffs hopes, but those within certainly haven’t.
The expansion club have enjoyed plenty of highs during their debut seasons in the league, but went into Saturday’s clash with defending champions NYCFC on a run of five defeats in their last six games.
The gap between themselves and the top seven in the East was widening, but luckily, NYCFC were the last team Charlotte beat and they managed to repeat the feat thanks to Daniel Rios’ fifth-minute goal at Bank of America Stadium.
Six points now separate CLTFC from the Playoffs with just four regular-season games remaining. Beating an out-of-form NYCFC might not convince many of the doubters that Charlotte can overturn the gap, but that is serving as extra motivation for the club’s players.
“There is a chip on our shoulder. A lot of people are trying to count us out and we’ve had to deal with a lot of critics from the start of the season, not just recently. Not everybody gets to see what the team is like day in and day out,” center-back Anton Walkes told reporters following Saturday’s win.
“We have a great team, great staff, great everybody. Everybody is playing a part in trying to build something. We’re in a position where we can finish the season with our heads held high and who knows what can happen…it’s the playoff and that’s the goal.”
Interim head coach Christian Lattanzio stressed the significance of the victory, but also dedicated it to Charlotte FC’s supporters, who have turned out in force during their debut season and haven’t faltered, regardless of the club’s form.
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“Super important,” Lattanzio said of the win, adding: “First of all, for the fans. Because as I said many times, this is one of the best fanbases and I really mean that, I’m not here just to try to blow anything behind the fan base. I loved it from day one, they come together with so much passion, with so much energy and we need to give them as much as we can.
“Sometimes the results we can’t control the outcome, but it’s important that we give everything for them, everything for this football club. Especially for them because this fan base deserves that. I am very, very pleased that we could give them three points.”
Up next for CLTFC is a trip to the Chicago Fire before they host the high-flying Philadelphia Union.