CHARLOTT — It was a night of firsts for Charlotte FC at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday. The MLS expansion team entered its fourth game ever with an 0-3-0 record and just one goal in its first three matches.
The team saw an offensive explosion against the New England Revolution, however, finding the back of the net three times to record the first win in Charlotte FC franchise history, 3-1.
“Being a coach is so difficult,” said Charlotte coach Miguel Angel Ramirez. “Being a professional player is also very difficult. I believe we pay the price for nights like tonight, to enjoy playing football — goals, celebrations, fans.”
Ramirez changed the lineup, starting four midfielders, which seemed to throw New England off-balance from the start.
“To compete against this team and how they behave, attacking and defense was the best way,” said Ramirez. “To have four midfielders and two strikers and be able to move them with the back four. They didn’t expect a 4-4-2 today. They expected a 4-3-3.”
One of the two strikers, Karol Swiderski, started the scoring in the sixth minute, firing a shot to the left side of the net past New England keeper Earl Edwards Jr. The tally doubled Charlotte’s all-time goals total and gave the FC its first-ever lead in a regular season game.
“Danny (Rios) and Karol were amazing today,” said Ramirez. “Super, super good helping us to move the game there.”
That 1-0 margin held up for the rest of the half, sending Charlotte into the locker room with its first halftime advantage in history.
New England rallied early in the second half when Charles Gil scored on a penalty kick in minute 54 to tie things at one. Swiderski played the hero once again, scoring a go-ahead goal on an assist from Ben Bender less than three minutes later. Seven minutes after that, in the 64th minute, Bender scored one himself to put Charlotte up 3-1.
New England, which set an MLS record for points last year in winning the regular season, fell to 1-2-1. The Revolution played in Mexico City on Wednesday and may have been feeling the effects while facing a Charlotte team that hadn’t played since last weekend.
“They were playing in altitude,” Ramirez said of New England’s trip to Mexico City, which is nearly 7,350 feet above sea level. “I know how you suffer when you play in altitude.”
Charlotte scored its first goal last weekend, added three more and a win this time around, but Ramirez cautioned against reading too much into the progress.
“This is not linear,” he said. “Each game is completely different. You need to have a good day to understand the spaces and conquer the spaces you want. Today we could, and today we did. Next Saturday, we don’t know.”
Still, the expansion team seems to be showing encouraging signs as it moves through its infancy.
“The way we are playing, being very new and very far from these giants — these big clubs — we are reducing the gap with work, with the game how we are playing. We are reducing this gap.”