Charlotte FC sporting director Zoran Krneta feels the club have realized their ambition to be competitive in their maiden campaign as they prepare to welcome Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS this weekend.

The expansion outfit have won four of their first dozen games this term, but sit only two points off the postseason race as things stand.

“I think our season has gone well,” Krneta stated. “I’m proud of the players. At the beginning, we said our aim for year one is to be competitive, and I think we have proved that. I think we are competitive in every single game.

“I don’t think anybody has beaten us soundly. I think our team has shown spirit and has fought to the very last minutes. I think there are a lot of positives to take for the first 12 games. There is obviously a lot of room for improvement.

“We are addressing that, the coaching staff and myself. The front office is also now looking where else and what else we need to improve for the season with the summer window coming up and for next year.”

Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini meanwhile hailed his team’s resolve in a fightback win over Dallas, but acknowledged the tightness of this year’s league makes it tough to call victories.

“It shows the resiliency of the team and how good we are mentally and physically at the moment,” he added.

“But again, I would love to have a game where we are 2-0 at the end of the first half, and maybe we manage the second half. But you know, every game in MLS is very close.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte – Karol Swiderski

The forward is enjoying a steady campaign, and has been firing shots towards goal for fun. Though he has only notched four finishes, he has managed 16 shots on target – more than all bar two players in MLS this term.

Vancouver – Sebastian Berhalter

The midfielder has often proven the best man in breaking up teams on the counter this term, with more successful tackles than any other player in the squad.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Vancouver has won its last three matches against expansion sides and has lost just one of its last eight matches against league newcomers dating back to 2017 (W5 D2). The Whitecaps have lost only one away match against an expansion team, falling 2-1 at fellow newcomers Portland in August 2011.

– Charlotte’s 2-0 defeat to CF Montréal on Saturday ended a four-match home winning streak. Twelve of Charlotte’s 13 total points this season have come in matches played at Bank of America Stadium.

– The Whitecaps are unbeaten in three straight matches (W2 D1), collecting seven points after taking just four points from their first eight games this season. All three of those matches were at home as the ‘Caps have lost their last six road MLS matches, including all five on the road in 2022.

– After scoring back-to-back braces in late March, Karol Swiderski has failed to score in his last seven MLS appearances. His scoring drought hasn’t been due to a lack of shots on target as he’s managed to hit the target 18 times this season, tied for second-most in MLS (Hany Mukhtar – 21).

– Lucas Cavallini scored the winning goal for Vancouver from the penalty spot against FC Dallas on Wednesday. Cavallini has scored in consecutive MLS matches after scoring just once in his previous 19 league games dating back to last August.