Charlotte FC coach Miguel Angel Ramirez is heading into Sunday's clash with Atlanta United confident his side can avenge defeat from earlier this season.
Major League Soccer's newest club lost 2-1 to their southern rivals last month in just their third-ever competitive match.
But Charlotte only went down thanks to a 96th-minute deflected Jake Mulraney effort after Adam Armour had canceled out Josef Martinez's penalty - the club's first-ever MLS goal.
Since then, Charlotte have picked up wins against the New England Revolution and FC Cincinnati, and continue to play attractive, attacking soccer. And on Sunday, they have the advantage of hosting the Five Stripes at Bank of America Stadium.
“Yeah, yeah. 100%," Ramirez responded when asked if his players are better prepared for playing Atlanta United. "Also playing against them again, now my players feel that as a team they aren’t better than us. We can compete and we can win. We were very close to tying the game last time. So yeah, 100%.”
Not only do the Crown have home advantage, but they also face an Atlanta side missing their star striker after Josef Martinez underwent knee surgery on Wednesday.
Though still not back to his best, Martinez had posted two goals and two assists across the opening five games of the 2022 MLS campaign and would have been one of the top priorities for the Charlotte center-backs.
But even without Martinez and fellow Designated Player Luiz Araujo, Ramirez is well aware of the depth of quality in Atlanta with the likes of Thiago Almada and Marcelino Moreno.
"In the game that we played there, the first two substitute players were $12 million each one," he said. "And they were substitutes. So, it's not just Martinez. They have a very deep squad and a very expensive squad, so they are ready to replace any player."