Major League Soccer

DC United 3-0 Charlotte FC: Five things learned as CLTFC's MLS debut ends in defeat

Chris Smith
Charlotte FC were unlucky vs DC United.
Charlotte FC were unlucky vs DC United. / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages
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Charlotte FC's long-awaited MLS debut ended in tears with a 3-0 defeat away to DC United on Saturday evening.

After having their expansion year delayed due to the global pandemic, Major League Soccer's latest club finally set sail on their exciting adventure.

But despite some eye-catching passing and a whole host of chances, Miguel Angel Ramirez's side were unable to find a goal (legally, at least) and fell foul of a trio of cruel, unlucky, and controversial DC strikes.

There was plenty to unpack as Charlotte FC finally got down to business in MLS. So, what did we learn?

1. Promise

Much has been made of Miguel Angel Ramirez's 'we're screwed' comment. Too much. It was a mere sound bite taken out of context in the wider conversation of Charlotte FC's long-term roster build.

On Saturday night, the Crown showed that they're by no means 'screwed'.

Sure, they came out on the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline. But the result flattered DC United, greatly.

For long stretches, Charlotte dominated this game, creating the big chances and leaving the hosts looking positively shellshocked. They even put the ball in the net in the opening 20 minutes via Titi Ortiz, though the goal was rightly - if not cruelly - ruled out for offside.

There was plenty of bad luck and poor officiating involved in Charlotte going 3-0 behind as well (see above for exhibit one).

But it's clear Ramirez has this side brilliantly drilled in possession. There was confidence, fluidity, bravery, and purpose throughout. The spacing between players was right and the interchanges were fast.

Credit must also be given to the fact that CLTFC never let their heads drop, despite going 3-0 down. They kept on going, kept on creating, kept on plugging away.

It's a defeat with a zero on the scoreboard, but Charlotte FC showed huge promise here ahead of their home opener against the LA Galaxy next weekend - and their debut season beyond.

2. They need Swiderski back ASAP

So good was Charlotte's play that, by the end of the night, they'd matched DC United 11-11 for shots. They were only down 1.45-1.09 in xG, and a huge chunk of DC's xG came from the penalty spot.

All that was missing at the end was a natural goalscorer with the composure and experience to put those big chances away when they come by.

Of course, Charlotte already have a DP striker within their ranks in Karol Swiderski.

Unfortunately, the Poland international is stuck back in his homeland sorting a visa issue, so was unable to make CLTFC's debut.

But Swiderski has six goals at senior international level with Poland, and is a title-winner in Greece with PAOK. He has quality, pedigree, and experience in buckets. Perhaps that Yordy Reyna chance that hit the post on 70 minutes goes in had it fallen to Swiderski...

The sooner he's back stateside and starting for Charlotte FC, the better. He could make or break their expansion year.

3. MLS is punishing

As you'll all know only too well, Major League Soccer is a league like no other. It's wild, unpredictable, and brutally punishing. Miss your big chances and you'll be made to pay at the other end in so many different ways.

Charlotte FC had the perhaps unenviable job of making their MLS debut under the floodlights, too. Ever heard of #MLSAfterDark? It's real, and it's the stuff of nightmares.

The manner of DC United's three goals on Saturday was perfect evidence of how crazy and cruel this league can be at times. It's an intangible that Charlotte FC will have to quickly learn to live with and harness to their own benefit.

4. Kristijan Kahlina is the most terrifying goalkeeper in MLS

Ramirez and Charlotte FC are clearly fully committed to possession soccer. And that's great, you have to praise the bravery of this team trying to play the right way from the first whistle.

That also goes for goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina, who took the ball with immense composure on Saturday, spraying passes around and seemingly unaware and unbothered by DC United pressure.

But with that mentality came a monumental amount of risk. Multiple times, CLTFC hearts were left in mouths as Kahlina came within millimeters of losing the ball in his own penalty area. A loose touch here or an extra turn there and the scoreline could have got much worse.

And then there was his attempted punch for DC's third goal. Sure, Kahlina was unlucky to see the ball hit Ola Kamara and go in. But perhaps the Croatian could have caught the cross, or taken a little more care with where he directed it. By professional goalkeeping standards, it was erratic.

Kahlina is well suited to this style of play. But he is a sucker for taking huge risks. For the neutral, that's just great. For Charlotte FC fans? Well, it could prove terrifying.

5. Christian Fuchs' experience will be vital

Fuchs is Charlotte FC's first-ever captain.
Fuchs is Charlotte FC's first-ever captain. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being at the heart of a defense on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline, Christian Fuchs was arguably Charlotte FC's standout player for much of this game.

The Austrian was signed to be the leader of this newly-formed, young group. He fit the bill well on Saturday.

Time and again, Fuchs - a former Premier League champion with Leicester City - was the one cutting out DC United passes and shutting down attacks. But he also made a habit of picking the right passes at the right times - relieving pressure with a long hit down the channel when needed, or playing through the lines when he had a little more space.

Even when furious at referee Victor Rivas' decision to uphold a DC United penalty call without checking the VAR screen, Fuchs was the one calling his teammates away to avoid unnecessary bookings, attempting a more personal dialogue with the officials.

Fuchs rolled back the years on Saturday and his experience may prove to be a fine margin that helps CLTFC pick up some precious points this year.

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