Charlotte FC improving, but fall short to Atlanta United

By Jonathan Lee

Photo: Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire

They were so close. 

Just a minute away from securing their first points as an MLS franchise, Atlanta United’s Jake Mulraney took a pass from midfield, worked quickly around Charlotte FC defender Christian Fuchs, firing a shot that deflected off the back of Christian Makoun and past goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina to give Atlanta the 2-1 victory that had Charlotte players falling to their knees in both exhaustion and incredulation.

“We did everything we could,” Charlotte FC head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez lamented after the match. “The first half was theirs, but the second [half] was ours. There’s a lot of merit to what we have done. 

Charlotte can take away plenty of positives from the match. They were able to put together their most competitive effort of the young season. Atlanta won the ball possession battle, 62 percent to 38 percent, but Charlotte was able to more than double their shots on goal (12) compared to the previous match against the LA Galaxy. They had a few good opportunities in the first half including a header by Karol Swiderski off a cross from Ben Bender that was denied by Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 39th minute.  

After getting shut out in their first two matches, Charlotte finally found that elusive first goal in franchise history. Burlington, North Carolina native Adam Armour took a corner kick from Bender in traffic and headed it into the short side of the net in the match’s 66th minute 

“Everyone loves to score goals, but to be the first in team history is an amazing feeling,” Armour said post-match. 

Atlanta scored the first goal off a penalty kick when defender Christian Makoun fouled Brooks Lennon at the edge of the box in the 60th minute. Atlanta’s top goal scorer Josef Martinez took the penalty kick, stutter-stepping into the kick before blasting the shot past a diving Kahlina and giving the Five Stripes the 1-0 lead.

First overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft Ben Bender made the first start of his young career for Charlotte FC. The University of Maryland product made massive improvements in his two appearances, impacting the game by setting up multiple scoring chances with corners and free kicks.

The fans of Charlotte FC made their voices heard as well. Hundreds of fans from different local supporter groups made the trip, many packing chartered buses and driving caravan style from Charlotte to cheer, sing and chant.

The results haven’t played out in the win column as of yet, but the club continues to show development and team chemistry with every match played. Charlotte FC returns to the Queen City to play three of their next four matches at Bank of America Stadium. They begin the stretch against last year’s top regular season team, the New England Revolution. Kickoff is on Saturday, March 19 at 7 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium, airing on WSOC-TV and Telumundo Charlotte. 

Check out the remaining 2022 Charlotte FC schedule.

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