Charlotte FC must play the game, rather than the occasion, when they search for their first MLS win of the season against regional rivals Atlanta United, says defender Nathan Byrne.
Having been edged out in their season opener against the New England Revolution, Charlotte were beaten 3-1 at expansion team St. Louis City SC in their second outing of the campaign.
While those losses leave Christian Lattanzio’s team 14th in the Eastern Conference, they controlled large periods of both games, leaving Byrne determined to turn encouraging displays into points.
“No one’s happy losing a match and if you are, then there’s a problem already,” said Byrne. “We were angry with the way that we didn’t take our chances like we should have.
“We’re frustrated because we’re happy with how we’re going in terms of performances, we just need to turn those into wins.
“I’ve played a lot of derby matches and for me, you just have to take it as another game.
“I’m not going to approach it any differently than I would any other game but I think in derby matches, this comes down to controlling your emotions and using them in the right way.”
Atlanta, meanwhile, are fourth in the early standings after following up a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes with a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC.
The Five Stripes have dominated possession in both games so far, leaving coach Gonzalo Pineda pleased.
“That’s a good sign of us having a good mentality on trying to dominate the game in the way we want,” Pineda said.
“The way we build and the way we start to create our chances dictates how we’re going to regain the ball after that.
“It’s always a work in progress. That’s being a footballer, but we are trying to send the right message to the players on understanding that.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Charlotte FC – Karol Swiderski
Seventeen of Charlotte’s 21 shots this season (81 percent) have been attempted from inside the box, the highest percentage in MLS.
Swiderski hit double figures in his 30 MLS appearances for Charlotte last season, and if the hosts continue to create good opportunities inside the penalty area, he will fancy his chances of capitalizing.
Atlanta United – Thiago Almada
Having teed up Atlanta’s leveller against Toronto last time out, Almada has either scored (four) or assisted (three) seven of his team’s last eight MLS goals, including each of the last four in a row.
With Charlotte yet to pick up a point in 2023, Argentina’s World Cup winner will hope to make a decisive contribution once again.
MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE FC WIN
The home side emerged triumphant from both of the teams’ meetings in 2022, with Charlotte claiming a 1-0 victory on their own turf last April.
Atlanta will need to overcome a poor away record on their trip to North Carolina, having only won one of their last 16 road games last season across all competitions (D5 L10).
Going back to last campaign, Charlotte have lost three consecutive matches for just the third time in their history, but they responded with three wins in four games after their first three-game losing run (Feb-Mar 2022) before winning three in a row after their second such streak (Aug.-Sept. 2022).
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Charlotte FC: 41.5 percent
Atlanta United: 29.8 percent
Draw: 28.7 percent