Charlotte FC

Christian Lattanzio praises Charlotte FC players & fans after first win as interim coach

Chris Smith
Lattanzio made a positive start to life in charge of Charlotte FC.
Lattanzio made a positive start to life in charge of Charlotte FC. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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After picking up a win in his first game as interim head coach, Christian Lattanzio has deflected praise onto Charlotte FC's players and supporters.

The expansion club recently announced the shock departure of first-ever head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, despite sitting eighth in the Eastern Conference and just outside the MLS Cup Playoff picture.

Lattanzio was placed in charge until the end of the season with the task of continuing good results and pulling the team back together amid reports of tension between Ramirez and certain players.

If his first match is anything to go by, Charlotte FC are in good hands after a comfortable 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls - who are fourth in the East - with goals from Ben Bender and Derrick Jones.

The victory lifts CLTFC above the Playoff line and was well-merited after controlling 61% possession and generating 2.07 xG compared to RBNY's 0.58.

But rather than take the plaudits himself, Lattanzio has highlighted his players and the supporters inside Bank of America Stadium.

“I thought the boys did even better than I expected. They were really solid, I thought, against a very, very good team. Not just a good team, but were also in their moment, coming from a number of results and playing well. And so it’s always difficult to play them," he said.

"The boys I thought, that even when Red Bulls tried to put the game in their own terms, we responded well. We would have liked to play more in the first half, create a little more but you have to consider the ability of the opposition. We worked on certain things, it’s surprising, the boys, they were amazing." 

On the effect the Charlotte FC supporters had on the players, Lattanzio added: "It’s good, it’s great for the boys who deserved it. I’m very happy for them, it’s a group of players that I love. And so they deserved it. It gives them more belief that we can improve in certain things and that the atmosphere that the fans generate here is amazing. 

"So there is this connection between the team and them. There is a lot of belief, they push them, and we feel like we always have a chance because they are the 12th man. They are the 12th man for sure. At home, we are blessed to have this crowd."

Even outside the context of Ramirez's departure, this was an important victory for Charlotte. Their strong home record has now been extended to 18 points from eight games - only bettered by NYCFC (19) in the East - and it keeps them firmly in the hunt for a Playoff spot, something any expansion club would take in a heartbeat.

But center-back Anton Walkes - who made just his second start of the season on Saturday since joining from Atlanta United - believes it was about way more than just points or places on the table.

"In the back of my mind, I knew a win would have been even bigger than three points and a bit of momentum," Walkes told MLSsoccer.com. "It's [Lattanzio’s] first time in charge and there's extra motivation to make sure we play good underneath him."

Goalscorer Bender - who has been a highlight of Charlotte's expansion year so far - added: "It meant a lot to give us confidence, to give him [Lattanzio] confidence moving forward. It’s not an easy time, but I think we stepped up and we showed everyone, showed the fans that we’re capable of competing against the best teams."

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