It’s raining, it’s pouring, but Charlotte FC is still planning on scoring. Even as Hurricane Ian ravaged central Florida on its way to the Carolinas and many Charlotte-area school systems pivoted to virtual instruction on Friday, Charlotte FC is still preparing to host the top-ranked Philadelphia Union at home at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
At a Thursday press conference, I asked interim head coach Christian Lattanzio if the hurricane could delay or impact the match.
“For Saturday, I don’t think there will be any issues, or at least not any major issues. They’re saying that we can play under the rain,” said Lattanzio, who coached in England for 20 years. “I don’t think the rain even gets mentioned in England. You’ve got to expect to play in the rain in England.”
“It shouldn’t be as bad as feared; we will see,” he added.
The match is the final event of the club’s Fan Appreciation Week, which featured a Hispanic Heritage Night block party and autograph-signing event on Wednesday at Charlotte FC’s new headquarters in south Charlotte. In addition to celebratory T-shirts, the team is now advertising that every ticketed attendee will receive a free poncho — a tacit acknowledgement from the team that the passion of the fans is not entirely immune to hurricanes.
Should the match take place as planned, it will be the first of three in a nine-day stretch that concludes with Charlotte taking the field for their final match of the regular season against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, Oct. 9.
Charlotte almost certainly needs to win all three remaining matches to keep their playoff hopes alive; if either Inter Miami or the Columbus Crew win this weekend, a Charlotte loss to Philadelphia would mathematically eliminate CLTFC from the playoffs.
Either way, I’ll be reporting live from the home of the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ for the last match of the season. Maybe my editor will finally let me take over the Queen City Nerve Twitter?
All eyes on Świderski
The fan-focused week coincided with an international break that sent forwards Karol Świderski and Yordy Reyna to play for the Polish and Peruvian national teams, respectively. While Peru was eliminated from World Cup play, Poland will head to Qatar in November, and Świderski is quickly becoming a critical member of that team. While he didn’t play in Poland’s 0-2 home loss to the Netherlands, he started aside legendary striker Robert Lewandowski and scored the winning goal in Poland’s 0-1 win in Wales to conclude this year’s Nations League play.
Coach Lattanzio thinks Świderski is only going to get better.
“There is more to come from Karol,” said Lattanzio. “I obviously am very happy that he scored a winner in Wales … It’s great, but at the same time it’s not a surprise.”
Other clubs are noticing Charlotte’s star player as well. Polish Sports Network Futbol reports multiple clubs have approached Charlotte about Świderski, and furthermore, “The MLS club will not consider any offer lower than €15M for Świder,” they reported, using his shorthand name.
When I asked Lattanzio about the interest in Karol, he demurred, but also made it clear the scouting departments at other teams have talked to him about the Polish striker.
“I will not comment because I really don’t know … This I can confirm: I get a lot of calls from France, Italy, and UK scouts that I know from my previous works, they want to know more and more about players in MLS. So I assume that when a player does really well, becomes captain, scores goals [in MLS], scores goals for his national team, I believe the interest on the player will go high, it’s logical,” said Lattanzio.
As for the skipper himself, rumors abound that Lattanzio is coming back next year without the “interim” title. Multiple reports confirmed the coach is close to inking a three-year deal with the club. By all accounts, Lattanzio has secured the confidence of both the front office and the players, something former head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez struggled to do.
Lattanzio vs. Lasso
Starting today with the release of FIFA 23, gamers across the world can play as Charlotte FC or as Ted Lasso’s fictional AFC Richmond for the first time. Both clubs are included in this year’s edition of the match, though watch out if you’re a Nintendo owner; while you’ll be able to play as Świderski and Charlotte, you won’t be able to play as Lasso and the Greyhounds.
As the saying goes, Roy Kent is here, he’s there, he’s every-fucking-where … except on the Nintendo Switch.
Nevertheless, Charlotte FC supporters on all platforms will be able to keep up with the team during the offseason, or at least until Świderski’s first World Cup match for Poland.