New international players offer a boost down the stretch
Charlotte FC players and fans get into the giving spirit, Swiderski gets a taste of wing to get Shinyashiki playing time, sections of upper deck to open for Oct. 1 game, plus preview of Cincinnati
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Young French defender Malanda shows poise, vision in MLS debut; 2 more Europeans available to play this weekend
Adilson Malanda of France shows his downfield vision vs. Toronto. (Photo by Kevin Young of The 5 and 2 Project.)
Adilson Malanda is 20 years old, playing soccer for the first time away from his native France, speaks limited English and has no teammates who speak fluent French. Yet you could not wipe the smile off his face during a Zoom call with local media this week.
“I communicate the best I can,” he said with the benefit of a French professor from UNC Charlotte translating for him. “I understand everything, but the speaking part is hard for now. But football has a universal language. So I'm going to get there eventually.”
Malanda’s positive attitude matched his first performance. Malanda got the surprise start against Toronto on Saturday night after center back Jan Sobocinski injured his hamstring during practice. Malanda became the first of three international players Charlotte acquired at the close of the summer transfer window to contribute. Portuguese midfielder Nuno Santos and English defender Nathan Byrne both returned to Charlotte this past week with visas in hand and are ready to contribute Saturday in Cincinnati.
“I don’t think either of them could go 90 minutes,” Coach Christian Lattanzio said Thursday. “But they could take part in the game.”
If their contributions prove anything like Malanda’s, they will give Charlotte FC an immediate boost. Even in the 2-0 loss to Toronto, Malanda’s skills stood out. Lattanzio said afterward he played “exceptionally well.”
“He played with a lot of personality, very good on the ball and also defending,” Lattanzio said.
Malanda showed a unique combination of poise, toughness and vision. He used all three on a series of deep passes upfield, something Charlotte FC fans are used to seeing from Christian Fuchs from his left back position, but not necessarily from their center backs. Here’s just one example of the direct forward action Malanda provided on this pass to Ben Bender:
Malanda has played just one full season in professional soccer last year for Rodez AF in France’s Ligue 2, or second division.
“My experience in France tells me he’s coming from a very, very strong league,” said Lattanzio, who served as an assistant coach for OGC Nice of France’s Ligue 1 from 2018-2020. “After that, you need time to adjust, but the base is there.”
Lattanzio characterized him as “serene.”
“He is a very clever boy from a football point of view and also is an intelligent guy off the pitch,” Lattanzio said. “Very calm, mature for his age. I think he is and will be a very important player for this football club.”
Lattanzio has noticed an ease about Malanda in his interactions on the field, around the stadium or having lunch with his teammates. That same easiness might explain why he seems so prepared for his transition to MLS and Charlotte, even at such a young age.
“It was a great opportunity with a team that seemed to really want me,” Malanda said. “I know it’s challenging to be in another country, but I want to be here and choose to be here and I’m going to do my best.”
Swiderski gets action at winger
In an effort to get Andre Shinyashiki on the field and try a new combination to create scoring chances, Lattanzio moved Karol Swiderski from center forward to right wing and put Shinyashiki at his natural center spot during a second half stretch against Toronto.
Shinyashiki, who is second on the team with five goals, played 33 minutes Saturday night after playing just 13 minutes in the previous three games. He got off two shots against Toronto, including one on target.
“The only striker we have who is left-footed is Karol, so (it gave us) somebody that can come inside and deliver, as we tried two or three times,” Lattanzio said. “I think Karol can play (the wing). I also wanted to see Andre as a No. 9 (center forward) and they can be interchangeable in my opinion.”
Swiderski, Charlotte FC’s leading goal-scorer (eight) and first ever designated player (signed without regard to salary cap), has shown a willingness to play back and participate in the buildup to scoring goals, as well as trying to finish them from his usual position around the box.
Giving back: Players and fans dig in on charity work
Brandt Bronico (left) and his wife, Rebecca, flank Charlotte FC super fan “Chico” at last week’s BB13 charity event to benefit Beds for Kids. (Photo courtesy of Brandt Bronico.)
With the swell of excitement over a first-time franchise has come a desire to channel that energy for good. Charlotte FC players and fans alike are establishing their footing in charity efforts. Leading the way was midfielder Brandt Bronico, who hosted his first ever #BB13 Grindset fundraiser last Sunday to benefit the local nonprofit Beds for Kids.
Beds for Kids is a furniture bank that provides beds and other essential furniture to Charlotte families in need.
“The club doesn’t have to do everything for us to give us opportunities in the community,” Bronico said. “We as players have a big platform that we can take initiative on and do things on our own, and that’s what I try to do. Charlotte is a special place to me, and I want to do as much as I can to give back to the community and be a special part of this.”
Fan groups raising money for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Charlotte FC’s supporters groups pledge to make fundraising an important part of their missions, and they’re backing it up this inaugural season. All of Charlotte’s supporters groups are joining forces to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in the organization’s “Light the Night” walk Nov. 19 at American Legion Memorial Stadium. In the annual event, held in cities throughout the U.S., participants walk about a mile carrying lanterns to honor those affected by blood cancers.
This is the first time the event has been held in person in three years, and it’s fitting that it’s starting this year at a soccer stadium and home of the Charlotte Independence. A fanbase already known for its passionate pre-game marches will take to the streets for a different cause.
Wesley Riley, a member of the QC Royals, will be walking with family friend Devin Kiser in mind. Kiser, the son of his wife’s best friend from college, died of leukemia in March at the age of 10. Riley told Devin’s story when first bringing up the idea of raising money for LLS to a meeting of Charlotte FC supporters in June.
Charlotte FC fan Wesley Riley (left) met with Charlotte FC fans in NoDa to discuss fundraising for LLS. (Photo courtesy of Riley.)
“I can't imagine hearing a doctor tell me my daughter has cancer,” said Riley, who has a 13-year-old daughter. “LLS does a lot for childhood cancer. Most of the drugs are created for adults, and they just give (children) lower doses like you do with Tylenol when your kid is sick. It wreaks havoc on their body. LLS is rolling out a new initiative called ‘Dare to Dream’ (to) create medications for kids that are dedicated for their bodies. It’s a huge initiative. It’s about $175 million to do this. But it will change the game for for pediatric cancer.”
Mint City Collective, Charlotte FC’s largest fan group, has created a Light the Night jersey, with proceeds to benefit the LLS efforts.
Mint City Collective’s Light the Night kit to benefit LLS. (Photo courtesy of Mint City Collective.)
Charlotte’s supporters groups set a goal of raising $20,000. They’ve already raised $9,559. Personally I think they’ll blow well past that target by the time the event comes in November, and I’ll be cheering them on to do it. My brother Chip is a survivor of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. He would not be here if not for the drug rituximab, which was developed through contributions from LLS. So even though there’s supposed to be “no cheering from the press box” for media types, I’ll go ahead and shout to Charlotte FC supporters what we encouraged each other with on a couple of marathons I’ve run to benefit LLS: “GO TEAM!”
For more information on how to join the fan group’s Light the Night team or simply to donate, click here.
Upper deck to open for Fan Appreciation Night Oct. 1
Charlotte FC announced this week it is opening six sections in the upper deck at Bank of America Stadium for Fan Appreciation Night on Oct. 1 for the game against Philadelphia. Tickets in sections 512 -517 (upper deck opposite the team benches) are on sale for $15 to $20.
This will be the fourth time the club has opened the upper deck this season, including the record-setting opener against the L.A. Galaxy (74,479), the exhibition game against Chelsea (52,673) and selected sections for Nashville (36,244) on July 9.
Kickoff on Saturday, Oct. 1, is at 5:30 p.m. Special pre-game activities include a party on Mint Street and a T-shirt giveaway.
Up Next: Charlotte FC (10-16-2) at FC Cincinnati (8-8-11)
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at TQL Stadium, Cincinnati
How to watch: WAXN (Channel 64), Telemundo, or live stream at www.charlottefootballclub/live or on the Charlotte FC app. Local restrictions apply.
Just two points separate Charlotte (32 points in 12th place) and Cincinnati (35) in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The top seven teams make the playoffs. Charlotte FC still has a shot.
Cincinnati’s 23-year-old striker Brandon Vazquez has scored 16 goals, the third most in MLS. He has scored in each of Cincinnati’s past six home matches.
Charlotte defeated Cincinnati 2-0 at Bank of America Stadium on March 26. Swiderski scored a “brace” in that game, his second consecutive two-goal effort.
Both midfielder Nuno Santos and right back Nathan Byrne have acquired their visas and are available to debut for Charlotte FC. Both were acquired, along with Malanda, at the end of the second transfer window in early August.
Of the 10 goals Charlotte FC has allowed in its past four games, nine have come in the second half.
Carroll Walton is a longtime baseball writer with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution now cutting her teeth on soccer and the Charlotte FC just as fans in Charlotte do. She would love to hear from you. E-mail her with questions, suggestions, story ideas and comments!
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