Christian Lattanzio hopes Charlotte FC can end their season on a high against the New York Red Bulls despite falling short of the playoffs.
Charlotte can no longer finished in the top seven in the Eastern Conference after a 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew in midweek.
The expansion team had enjoyed a remarkable run up to that point to stay in contention, beating New York City FC, the Chicago Fire and the Philadelphia Union in succession.
“I’m not proud… I’m very, very proud of this team,” said Lattanzio, who is reportedly set to be appointed as head coach on a full-time basis.
Brandt Bronico added Charlotte “ran out of time”, explaining: “That’s the way it goes sometimes, but I’m excited to see what we grow and build off and go into next season like.”
Defender Anton Walkes said: “I think there’s still more to come, I can see it.
“And obviously with our coach, he’s put so much effort and time into the team. I honestly believe we can do more for him. The last four games we have, but obviously we needed to do it a bit more consistently to start off with.”
Lattanzio wants to see that form continue against the Red Bulls, who are fourth but can move between third and fifth.
“The last game for us is important because we want to finish well and because morally we need to honor the league and the clubs who are still in contention,” he said.
“We need to try our best because we had this mini-season in mind, the last five games, and so far, we have three wins and a draw and we want to keep our momentum.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York Red Bulls – Lewis Morgan
Of the Red Bulls’ past 10 matches, Morgan has scored in four, of which the Red Bulls have won all four. They have not won any of the six he has not netted in. Morgan is so vital to their fortunes.
Charlotte FC – Daniel Rios
Like his coach, Rios will want to end the season on a high. He did more than most to keep Charlotte in contention, scoring a remarkable six goals over the past four games. Rios only had one for the season up until that point.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Red Bulls lost 2-0 at Charlotte on June 11, their second straight defeat against an expansion side following a 2-1 defeat to Miami in October 2020. New York had lost only two of their previous 19 matches against MLS newcomers (W13 D4) dating back to 2011.
– The Red Bulls have suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time this season. New York have not lost three straight regular season matches in over three years, since losses to NYCFC, Colorado and Seattle in August-September 2019.
– Charlotte FC enters the final match of the season on 42 points. A win over the Red Bulls would take Charlotte to 45 points, which would be the fifth-most by an expansion team in MLS history behind only LAFC (57 in 2018), the Fire (56 in 1998), Atlanta United (55 in 2017) and Seattle (47 in 2009).
– With Seattle’s elimination from playoff contention, the Red Bulls’ 13 straight playoff appearances is the longest active streak in MLS and tied for the longest in MLS history along with the Sounders run that just ended (2009-21).
– Rios followed his four-goal performance on Saturday with a goal against the Crew on Wednesday. Rios is the fourth player to score in consecutive games for Charlotte this season (Karol Swiderski twice, Andre Shinyashiki, Ben Bender) though no player has done so in three straight games.