Loons Look to Win First Match in Charlotte


Minnesota United is visiting Charlotte for the first time this weekend, and I’m not talking about the very kind arachnid that made me cry when I was a kid. If you’ve not yet read Charlotte’s Web, I won’t be spoiling E.B. White’s classic tale, but be warned: tragedy awaits. Literary classics aside, the Loons are visiting Charlotte FC for their first competitive match against one another, and it should be a great test for two teams looking to find their identity.

Minnesota United - (3-2-2)

Run of Form: L-D-L-W-W

The Black and Blue have cooled off a bit after their blistering start to 2024, picking up just a single point across their last three matches. While the results haven’t been ideal, the performances haven’t necessarily matched the outcomes. Sure, the loss in Philly was deserved; that’s a tough stadium to visit, and the Loons simply didn’t bring the energy they needed to plant their flag. In the last two matches, though, the scores haven’t matched the rest of the stats. If you look at everything but the goals, you’d think the Loons had won their last two games. They’ve outshot their opponents by a total of 49-17, held nearly 60% possession each time, and boast incredible passing metrics. It’s taken some special efforts to break them down; surely, that can’t keep happening. As they hit the road once more, Ramsay and company will be hoping to find their finishing touch to add to these dominant performances.

Charlotte FC - (3-3-2)

Run of Form: W-L-D-W-L

Charlotte has had a pretty decent start to life under manager Dean Smith. They’ve made Bank of America Stadium into a fortress, winning three out of four and drawing the only home match that they didn’t get three points out of. Their biggest success was a win against the Crew, though that match was absolutely nuts, with a 60-minute first half that saw disallowed goals, multiple injuries, and a red card. Most recently, their 3-2 victory over Toronto FC avenged an earlier loss and saw them find their shooting boots in the process, which will only give The Crown even more confidence heading into this weekend’s matchup with the Loons. 

Keys to the Match:

Salutations and Greetings

As I said before, this will be the first time MNUFC takes its talents to North Carolina, and it’s going to be quite the spectacle. Charlotte averages more than 35,000 fans per game, almost double the capacity of Allianz Field. Now, that’s not a slight at our lovely SOCCER stadium, but a simple reality. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be intimidating, and it’s going to be unlike most MLS atmospheres that the Loons are used to playing in. Playing in a football stadium—cough, Chicago—doesn’t work out for every club that tries it, but for Charlotte, it’s given rise to one of the league’s most solid strongholds. The visitors will need to block out the noise and stay poised if they want to take anything home with them, and that’s easier said than done. Just look at Columbus’ implosion at Bank of America a few weeks back.  

Fox in the Box

Everyone loves a striker who’s willing to come back and get involved in build-up play. They make space for wingers to run behind, help midfielders get involved, and generally add to the fluidity of any team’s attacking play. But if your striker isn’t waiting in the box, who is? Oh yeah, the other team’s center backs. Between Teemu Pukki and Tani Oluwaseyi, the Loons’ number nine needs to be a poacher this week. All they need to worry about is pressing and positioning. When the ball comes to them, they should be in position to either shoot or lay it off for a teammate. Creating chances is useless if no one is responsible for making sure they end up in the back of the net, and if that comes at the expense of playing pretty soccer, so be it. As soon as the goals start flowing like they should be, the game will settle back into its typically beautiful self; no makeup needed. 

Some Kid

Since making his first MLS start against LAFC, Devin Padelford has become indispensable. Injuries and suspensions across the back line have tested his versatility, and the MNUFC Academy product has proven that he’s more than capable of playing at this level. Whether he’s playing left back or center back, starting or coming off the bench, the young defender brings energy and passion to the pitch, injecting a bit of youthful exuberance into a back line that’s been led by veterans for a few years. He adds a hunger to his side that could only come from a young player trying to start their career, and while the rest of the squad isn’t stale by any means, his contributions have been refreshing. No matter what role he plays in this weekend’s match, his impact needs to be felt.

Match Details

Charlotte FC vs. Minnesota United FC

Bank of America Stadium | Charlotte, North Carolina

04.21.2024 | MLS Matchday No. 10 | MLS Game 8

5:00 p.m. CT (Watch FREE on AppleTV’s MLS Season Pass, or on FS1 or FOX Deportes)