There might be a new man in the dugout for Charlotte FC this weekend but the expectations remain the same.
Following the shock sacking of first-ever head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, Christian Lattanzio takes over Major League Soccer’s newest club on an interim basis.
The Italian’s first test comes this weekend as Charlotte host the New York Red Bulls and speaking to reporters ahead of that match, Lattanzio insisted his players will maintain the same high standards that have seen them climb to eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, despite still finding their feet in MLS.
“My expectations of the team are to be competitive from the first to the last minute and to try and impose our game,” he said. “No coach can guarantee the result, not even the biggest coaches on the biggest teams. What we have to focus on is the performance and the process.
“On that, I think us and the players have a kind of certain control. The intensity we put, the organization that we have, how we support each other on the pitch. And so, my expectations are that we will go and compete against everybody, everywhere.”
The Red Bulls are an opponent Lattanzio is already familiar with. It was RBNY who knocked Charlotte out of the US Open Cup recently, inflicting a 3-1 defeat in Ramirez’s penultimate game in charge.
Under Gerhard Struber, New York have clear and defined principles – as is the case for any Red Bull team – always looking to win the physical battles, press their opponents with intensity and transition to attack with terrifying speed.
But having already seen them up close and personal, Lattanzio believes his Charlotte team can give RBNY – fourth in the East – a run for their money.
“Red Bull is a really good team with a philosophy and clear way of playing that they’ve developed over the years in one of the biggest football groups in the world. They are a group that I respect a lot because they have a clear philosophy of playing,” Lattanzio observed.
He continued: “At the same time, I believe in my players and I think we can give them a game. We are looking forward to meeting them again. They were physical with us like they are physical with everyone, it is part of their DNA as a club.
“But we want to respond to the physical challenge but at the same time to try and impose our game.”
One of the defining traits from the Ramirez era at Bank of America Stadium – where Charlotte are 5-2-0 this season – was his connection with the fans, with some even organizing a farewell party for the Spaniard following his departure from the club.
But Lattanzio is absolutely confident the supporters will rally straight behind their players again on Saturday, hailing the Charlotte FC fanbase as a ‘big plus’ for Major League Soccer.
“The atmosphere, and I’ve been in a few stadiums over the years, is really joyous. It feels like a party, I know it was said in a phrase, but it really does feel like a party,” he said. “Also some players I know that play in different teams, when they play here, they said the same thing. It’s something completely different from any other stadium.
“They [players] have a lot of fun to play in front of them [fans]. They love to play here, they really do. They can’t wait to come to the stadium to make them happy, sometimes we succeed in that and sometimes not in terms of results, but we will give everything for them. Because it’s one of the big plusses for MLS, is to have Charlotte and the fanbase involved in this league.”