Charlotte FC looks for consistency in season’s second half

The young club has lost three of its past four MLS matches

Defender Nathan Byrne, left, and Charlotte FC have a 6-3-8 record in the club's second MLS season. (Joe Puetz / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — With the 2023 MLS regular season hitting the halfway point, Charlotte FC’s sophomore season in the league has proven to be a mixed bag as the club sits in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings in ninth place with a record of 6-3-8 and 21 points.

The club has yet to find a level of consistency in MLS play and has lost three of its past four matches — all on the road — after a three-game winning streak in early May with wins over New York City FC, Atlanta United FC and Chicago Fire FC.

The club is currently receiving some much-needed rest and preparing to host the Western Conference’s Seattle Sounders (8-3-6, 27 points) at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday after the recent string of losses that culminated with a 4-2 road loss to the Columbus Crew on June 3.

Charlotte and Seattle previously met in May 2022, when the Sounders won 2-1 at home.

Charlotte coach Christian Lattanzio admitted after his club’s loss in Columbus that his roster still needs to evolve to be able to compete against its competition — especially early in games — adding that his players “didn’t start with the intention and the focus I wanted.”

“There are some teams in this league and we need to understand that they build, over the years, good squads with great quality players. And we need to respect that we are not there yet,” Lattanzio said. “We have to be realistic, and we have to build our squad in a way that we are going to have the same level of quality in all the positions and then we can then compete.”

In the loss to Columbus performance, the black and blue came up short in trying to erase a 3-0 halftime hole.

“It was unacceptable,” team captain Ashley Westwood said. “We take full responsibility for that. We can’t start a game like that. It was completely unacceptable, so we take that on the chin, and we learn from it. We got in the changing room (at halftime) and a few words were said which were rightly so. We showed character. That’s the main thing. This group showed character tonight. It was tough. It was really tough.”

Charlotte responded with a goal from forward Karol Swiderski in the 56th minute followed by a goal by left winger Justin Meram in the 58th, but Columbus regained a two-goal lead a minute later as the Crew won their second consecutive match.

In Charlotte’s inaugural season last year, the club finished in ninth place with 42 points, posting a 13-3-18 record and an overall win rate of 38%. This season’s results have thus far been similar: The club has logged a 35% win rate.

Swiderski leads the Crown with five goals this season, while forward Enzo Copetti and Meram have three and two goals, respectively. Meram has also recorded a club-best five assists, and defender Jaylin Lindsey and midfielder Kamil Jozwiak have each posted four assists so far.

The club has struggled with injuries at times this year as Copetti (left thigh), Jozwiak (right thigh) and Hamady Diop (lower abdominal) are currently out of the lineup.

Charlotte’s most recent win came against the LA Galaxy on May 27 when it pulled off a 1-0 road win thanks to a goal from Swiderski.

Although Charlotte FC won its first two U.S. Open Cup matches, the club’s Open Cup run came to an end on the road at Birmingham Legion FC on May 24 with a 1-0 loss. The crown had previously defeated Orlando City FC and USL League One’s South Georgia Tormenta FC in Open Cup play.

The second half of the Crown’s season will feature 17 more MLS matches as well as Leagues Cup matches against FC Dallas (6-5-5, 23 points) on July 21 and Necaxa (Mexican Liga MX) on July 29.