Despite the loss, Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match felt like a historic win for the city

By Cameron Lee

March 6, 2022

Photo: Sheldon Kearse / CLTure 

A record-breaking evening that saw 74,479 fans pack Bank of America Stadium didn’t quite have the desired outcome soccer fans were looking for in the Queen City.  

A night that felt more like a celebration for eager fans who have been patiently waiting for professional soccer to officially arrive in Charlotte ended in a 1-0 loss to five-time MLS Cup winners, LA Galaxy. 

Charlotte FC supporters group section in east end of Bank of America Stadium. Photo: Sheldon Kearse

The loss brings Charlotte FC’s record to 0-2 to start their debut MLS season, but there was plenty of fanfare and lots of elation in the building to witness the first-ever Charlotte FC home match at Bank of America Stadium. The supporters groups, which occupy the lower level of the east end of the stadium came early, starting chants of “Let’s go Charlotte” and “Charlotte FC,” that billowed throughout the crowd. 

Panthers legend Steve Smith Sr. and his son Peyton at inaugural Charlotte FC home match. Photo: Sheldon Kearse

A sense of togetherness was in the air, one that has been missing in the city, especially in the same building where the beloved Carolina Panthers have failed to produce a playoff season in over four years. With the Panthers’ all-time leading receiver Steve Smith Sr. and seven-time Nascar champion Jimmie Johnson on the pitch to support the soccer club, that spirit was showcased even during the national anthem. After the mic and sound cut off during the song, the crowd firmly sang in unison creating a pretty memorable moment.

A small section of the stadium even started chanting “Tar Heels!” after hearing the news of UNC beating Duke in legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at famed Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham. With the college basketball upset capturing the nation’s attention and the record-breaking attendance at the inaugural Charlotte FC home match, the evening felt historic in many ways. Even MLS commissioner Don Garber was impressed. 

“The fact that we can have this game going on and capture this attention, that just speaks to the passion of this market. This is a rising city on so many different levels and clearly in the sports level, it is spectacular,” Garber said. 

Before the match, the stadium lights flashed a spectrum of colors as the Kanye West and Mike Dean-produced instrumental “No Church in the Wild” and Black Eyed Peas’ feel-good jam “I Gotta Feeling” blared through the speakers. Fans oohed as Charlotte FC owner David Tepper delivered on the party atmosphere he promised at the official team announcement press conference back in December of 2019. Head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez agreed. 

“I believe that I am the happiest coach in the world. I cannot describe it in words, the energy, and I would like to thank everyone that joined us in this party because it really was a party,” said Ramirez post-match.

While the entire evening truly felt festive, Charlotte FC seemed outmatched at times. Although the first goal didn’t come until the 77th minute when 19-year-old Galaxy midfielder Efraín Alvarez whipped an impressive long-distance shot into the far post, LA outshot Charlotte 21 to 5 in the match and 15 to 1 in the opening 45 minutes. Charlotte FC goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina kept the team in the match with a few impressive saves, especially from aggressive Galaxy attacker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who posed the biggest problem for Charlotte FC all night with repeated shots on goal. 

Charlotte FC captain Christian Fuchs. Photo: Sheldon Kearse

Even with limited shots of their own on goal, Charlotte still had a few good opportunities. Before Alvarez’s score that stunned the crowd, Christian Fuchs got a shot off as he was being pulled down to the ground by a Galaxy defender and Charlotte’s first-overall selection Benjamin Bender ricochet the deflection off the post in the 76th minute. Forward Daniel Rios also had a clear opportunity for a header that fell short with about a minute to play. 

Charlotte native and defender Jaylin Lindsey. Photo: Sheldon Kearse

For Charlotte native and defender Jaylin Lindsey, the final score of the match didn’t take away from the monumental night. 

It was unbelievable. I’ll tell you what, I was just telling one of the guys what hyped me up the most was the national anthem when everyone was singing,” Lindsey said in the post-match presser. “That’s when it just hit me that this is it, this is what we’ve been working for my whole life.”

Charlotte FC will visit Atlanta United for their next match on Sunday, March 13 which be televised on FS1 and FOX Deportes. 

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