On Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, Charlotte FC welcomed the New England Revolution to Bank of America Stadium in the kickoff to their second-ever Major League Soccer (MLS) season.
In Charlotte's first game after Anton Walkes tragic passing, the team started the game with a touching tribute video and an in-remembrance ceremony featuring owner David Tepper. However, the bittersweet beginning was soured by an 89' minute goal from New England's Henry Kessler to close out the match in a 1-0 Charlotte loss.
AW 💙 pic.twitter.com/L4rkK0c60l— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) February 26, 2023
Charlotte FC Head Coach Christian Lattanzio said the team was disappointed with the loss.
"We are obviously very, very disappointed. Me first because we wanted to give this unbelievable crowd something to cheer for, also for us, and to honor Anton in the best possible way," said Lattanzio, "It's the beginning of the journey, it's the first game, and we have 33 more so we need to move on and focus on the next one."
Here is what we've learned from this Charlotte FC's season-opening loss.
Charlotte is a sports city
With the declining quality of play in the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets in recent years, the attendance at pro events in Charlotte has been dwindling at an alarming rate.
For Charlotte FC, however, this has been the furthest from the truth. In Saturday's opening game, Bank of America Stadium had a staggering 69,345 fans in attendance. That was the most of any match for the MLS's opening week this year and only 5,000 fans away from rivaling the MLS record 74,479 attendance game, set by Charlotte last year at their inaugural kickoff game.
Supporters showed out big time! 🙌@CharlotteFC: 69,345 fans@ATLUTD: 67,538 fans pic.twitter.com/OugjLfDPi0— Major League Soccer (@MLS) February 27, 2023
Charlotte craves sports. The city's growth is directly linked to the NFL and NBA franchises. The new addition of an MLS team in Charlotte has proved to reinvigorate the pulse of Charlotte sports and help grow the MLS's excitement and reach.
While the results were not satisfactory for the fans, the promise of last year's team performance and the whispers of playoffs in year two will be enough to keep Bank of America seats packed for Charlotte FC matches.
Charlotte FC has some work to do on the offense
In a match with few chances of attack in the first half, Charlotte's offense looked slow throughout the match.
Argentinian forward Enzo Copetti was an active member of the offense in his Charlotte FC debut but left much to be desired with his passive play. Copetti accounted for four of Charlotte's 15 shots.
Charlotte also struggled with counterattacks throughout the match, usually finding themselves trapped in corners and resulting in unsuccessful corner kicks, tallying eight.
Despite collecting the only yellow card of the match for Charlotte, Nathan Byrne played with a fiery passion many other players seemed to be lacking.
Ashley Westwood seemed to be one of the only highlights of the offense in his MLS debut, slowly making his way into some plays. Charlotte 49er alumni Brandt Bronico delivered a golden cross to Kerwin Vargas on a counterattack. Vargas preceded to send the ball soaring over the net.
Charlotte's goalkeeping is in good hands
Charlotte FC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega rocketed to a great start against the Revolution, with four saves in the match. As time was closing, Charlotte defender Bill Tuiloma made a split-second decision to play aggressively on a ball crossed in the box, sadly deflecting the ball directly into enemy cleats and leaving Sisniega in a one-on-one with New England's Kessler, which led to a Revolution game-winning goal.
Despite Sisniega's allowed goal, he shined in his 2023 start, saving four of New England's five shots on target.
Sisniega at the ready 🧤 pic.twitter.com/uE8Bje1Lg2— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) February 28, 2023
Ultimately, the match seemed to come down to Charlotte's little mistakes. Coach Lattanzio said the game taught the team a lesson to learn.
"We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We have to move on," said coach Lattanzio, "There are lessons to be learned in this game. That every ball is important, every moment is important, the concentration at this level is vital because you make a little lapse, and suddenly you are chasing."
Charlotte FC is back in action on Saturday, March 4, when they take on St. Louis City SC in St. Louis. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. The game will be available to stream on Apple TV.