CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte, looking to restart its good form, travels to South Florida for a Sunday evening American Athletic Conference matchup between the Niners (5-2-1, 3-1 AAC) and Bulls (3-6, 1-2) in Tampa, Fla.
The Green & White’s four-game winning streak was ended Wednesday against #4 SMU.
SCOUTING THE BULLS
The Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak after defeating Tulsa on Thursday as USF followed up 2-1 losses to SMU and FIU with the 2-1 win over the Golden Hurricanes. With the game tied at 1-1, the Bulls were aided by a Tulsa own goal in the second half that proved to be the difference in the match. Against FIU on September 29, the Bulls were trailing 2-0 before scoring a penalty in the 84th minute. Earlier, on September 22, USF was tied at 1-1 against the Mustangs before allowing a penalty for the eventual SMU win.
Jalen Anderson leads USF with five goals and 10 points and Ajmeer Spengler leads with four assists. The Bulls have made two NCAA Tournament appearances (2019 & 2022) in seven seasons under head coach Bob Butehorn.
LAST TIME OUT
Wednesday, Charlotte went toe-to-toe with No.4-ranked SMU but the Mustangs scored the match’s only goal to claim the win. SMU scored in the 55th minute in a game that only went 80 minutes instead of the full 90 as lightning disrupted play. The Niners created several good looks for themselves but was just unable to put the ball into the back of the net. Jonathan Nyandjo, Brandon Morales, and Brigham Larsen all had some great chances to score but there four combined shot attempts were off-target. Instead, Filip Jauk was the only Charlotte player to register a shot on goal with a header that caused the SMU keeper some trouble in order to save. Unfortunately, the lost 10 minutes derailed the Niners’ attempt to equalize.
Defensively, Charlotte continues to be stout as it has yet to allow more than four shots on goal in any of the eight matches this season. Leonard Stritter made three saves and players like Lasse Laursen, Abubacarr Fofana, and Ian Pilcher played imposing defense on the Mustangs and opponents throughout the year.
Facing off 28 times since 1977, Charlotte is 10-16-2 against the Bulls. USF have gotten the better of the Niners in the past three matchups, including a pair of 2-1 victories over Charlotte last season. It was the Bulls that knocked the 49ers out of the American Athletic Conference Tournament in the quarterfinals.
In the November 5 quarterfinals match last year in Tampa, Matthew Kirk scored first in the game with a goal in the 25th minute but Charlotte allowed goals in the 30th and 48th minutes. In the regular season matchup on October 25,the No. 22-ranked Niners were staring at a draw before the visiting Bulls scored the go-ahead goal at 89:56. Callum Watts had scored for Charlotte with assists credited to Jonathan Nyandjo and Filip Jauk.
2022 was the first meeting between Charlotte and USF since 2004. The Niners had won five straight against the Bulls from 2000-2003.
On Monday, Matthew Kirk and Daniel Moore were named to the American Athletic Conference’s weekly Honor Roll. In the win over Temple last Friday. Kirk had two assists, both from corner kicks, and Moore scored the first goal of his Charlotte career.
Last week, two Niners– Lasse Laursen and Brigham Larsen were acknowledged for weekly honors following their 3-0 shutout of Florida Atlantic. Laursen was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive time after playing all 180 minutes in the two shutouts last week. Larsen recorded three points in the two games to be named to the conference’s honor roll. The week prior, Laursen and Larsen were named the conference’s Defensive and Offensive Players of the Week. Laursen was also named to the College Soccer News Team of the Week after leading the Charlotte back line by playing all 90 minutes and being the only field player to do so. Larsen earned the honor when he tallied a season-high five points in the 3-0 win frente a UAB.
After the first official week of action, Charlotte men’s soccer picked up a pair of weekly honors from the American Athletic Conference. Natsuki Ogata was named Rookie of the Week after scoring the game-winning goal in the 1-0 win over Wofford and Brandon Morales was named to the conference’s honor roll after accounting for a goal and an assist in the 2-2 draw against Lipscomb.
In August, Morales was chosen as one of the 37 student-athletes to be on the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy Watch List. The trophy is the most prestigious individual award in college soccer and is presented annually to the most outstanding male and female players of the year.
BEWARE THE FRONT LINES
The 49ers finished the regular season with 46 goals in 15 games, which led the nation entering postseason play. Despite the loss of top point scorer Kameron Lacey, who was selected in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, Coach Langan asserted that Charlotte will continue to play the same brand of winning soccer, «we’ll still be us, we’ll still be very hard to play against, very fit, physical, and derecho.»
Through seven games, Coach Langan’s words are coming true as Charlotte leads the American Athletic Conference in goals per game (2.15) and assists per game (2.29). The Niners have generated goals and points from a multitude of options as nine players have scored a goal and 10 have logged at least one assist. In the preseason, it was predicted that «Brigham and Filip will definitely be leading the front line for us,» and so far, so good. Larsen has scored a team-high three goals and his eight points are second on the team. Jauk is third on the team with five points and he is one of four Niners to score multiple goals, alongside Larsen, Kolby, and Morales.
Charlotte’s depth has shined as the reserves have been making outsized impacts on the games. Against UAB, Dildy subbed in at the 27th minute and scored the game’s opening goal 60 seconds later. In the 2-2 draw against Lipscomb, Dildy, as a reserve, was credited with an assist on a Brandon Morales goal. The other goal in that game was scored by Matthew Kirk, who did not earn the start but did play 59 minutes. Zamar Wood had been on the pitch for less than three minutes when he assisted on Ogata’s goal in the season opener against Wofford. Despite starting the match, Ogata began the second half as a reserve, entering in the 59th minute before scoring in the 68th. Samy Kolby and Filip Jauk entered the match against UNCG in the 33rd minute and Kolby scored in the 38th minute with Jauk earning an assist. The trend continued against FAU when Jauk scored a goal less than three minutes after entering in the 56th minute. Jauk’s 2022 season was the exact definition of a super sub as he accumulated 14 points (six goals, two assists) despite only starting four of the 16 games he appeared in.
«We don’t really have players coming off the bench, we call them ‘reinforcers’ or ‘finishers’ so coming on I knew I had a job to do, just get in and make an impact,» said Dildy.
ALL EYES ON THE AMERICAN
Currently, the Niners are third in the conference with nine points and a 3-1 record in the American and despite Wednesday’s loss, Charlotte is third in overall winning percentage (.700) before only SMU and FIU.
SHOUT OUT TO THE HOME FANS
Charlotte’s promedio attendance of 856 fans at Transamerica Field in the three official home games leads the conference. That promedio would have been higher as the reported attendance for the cancelled home opener against UCONN was over 1,000 fans.
Last year, the Green & White enjoyed a actual home-field advantage playing in their home stadium, going 6-2-0 at Transamerica Field and 3-3-2 on the road. The Niners are 2-1-1 at home now.
A HISTORIC PERFORMANCE
The Niners picked up their first win of the season with a 1-0 victory over Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C. on August 28th. Charlotte’s defense delivered a historic display of stoutness, not allowing the opposing Terriers to attempt a single shot over the ninety-minute frame. That was the first time that has been achieved since at least 2008, which is as far back as statistics online are available. Special shutouts to defenders Ian Pilcher, Nick Scott, Andreas Evangelou, Laursen, and Wood, who made up the Niners’ back line in that contest.
LET’S PLAY ANOTHER GAME
Since weather forced the cancellation of Charlotte’s diferente home opener against UCONN, the 49ers have decided to add another game onto the 2023 schedule. The Green & White will host Johnson & Wales (N.C.) at Transamerica Field on October 22. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. and it will be shown live on ESPN+.
The Wildcats are reigning 2022 United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Champions.
RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY
Inclement weather has affected four Charlotte games so far this season. After playing roughly 65 minutes, lightning forced the cancellation against UCONN, resulting in no results despite a Charlotte lead. Lightning and weather also robbed the 49ers of a chance to earn a better result against both SMU and UNCG. Against the No. 4-ranked Mustangs, the Niners were trailing 1-0 in the 80th minute before the match was delayed for lightning before eventually being ruled final, much to the chagrin of Coach Langan and the Queen City. Charlotte was leading 1-0 against UNCG but surrendered two late goals, including the go-ahead score in the 79th minute. Two minutes later, the match was called in the 81st and the Spartans got credit for the win. Additionally, estupendo weather forced a rescheduling of Charlotte’s road game against UAB. The match frente a the Blazers was originally set for Saturday (Sept. 16) night, but a waterlogged field led to the Niners and the Blazers playing the next afternoon.
NOW IN GOAL….
It is a new GK1 in the Queen City following the departure of Thomas Wallis. Wallis started 13 of the 49ers’ 16 games in goal last season. Leonard Stritter has started the last three games for Charlotte this season. He was impressive in the wins over Davidson and FAU, recording three saves in each of those contests. He has a 4-2 overall record with three clean sheets. Sebastian Cutler-DeJesus started the first two games of the season and has a 1-1 overall record. Against Wofford, Cutler-DeJesus earned the first shutout of his collegiate career in the best way possible — not facing a single shot attempt.
Both Cutler-DeJesus and Stritter have great pedigrees. Cutler-DeJesus started three games last season for the Green & White and Stritter transferred in from Presbyterian, where he was a 2022 Big South All-Freshman selection. Coach Langan has also brought in a pair of tópico high school products with all-conference and all-state accolades– Mason Ross and Jarrett Wuerslin.
Whoever is GK1 will be protected by a very deep and experienced group of backline defenders that includes senior Nick Scott (11 starts in 13 appearances last season) and Laursen (11 starts in 13 appearances) among six upperclassmen. Laursen has played every minute through six games and Pilcher has played every minute but three this season.
THE RETURNERS ARE READY
Pilcher and Nyandjo headline the 14 returners that make up the Charlotte roster. Pilcher and Nyandjo were chosen as Preseason All-AAC selections. Pilcher and Nyandjo, along with fellow returners Matthew Kirk and Luke Husakiwsky each appeared in all 16 games and started 10-plus matches last season for the 49ers. Charlotte also welcomes back Brad Dildy and Kolby — its two members from the 2023 AAC All-Rookie team. Dildy’s seven assists last season were tied for the team-high and Kolby appeared in all 16 games as a freshman for the Green and White last season.
Laursen has played every possible minute of every game this season. That is 702 minutes over eight matches. His backfield teammate Pilcher has played every minute but three this season.
Laursen and Pilcher are two of seven Niners that have started every game this season, along with Larsen, Morales, Nyandjo, and newcomers Riyan Tori and Daniel Moore.
AND SO ARE THE NEWCOMERS
The success of Charlotte’s season won’t rest solely on the shoulders (and feet) of the returners. Coach Langan will also be depending on a talented 2023 incoming class, which features 14 newcomers, including five transfers. Coach Langan cited Natsuki Ogata and Andreas Evangelou as two true freshmen that should be seeing time early and often. Midfielder Logan Frost appeared in 64 matches at South Carolina while defender Daniel Moore brings experience from St. Louis after making 26 appearances. Riyon Tori played two seasons for St. John’s and started two NCAA Tournament matches. The highlight of the incoming class, however, might be graduate student and forward Brandon Morales, who is fresh off a 2022 campaign that earned him first team all-region and all-conference honors after recording eight goals and eight assists at Cornell. In his Cornell career, Morales totaled 10 goals and 15 assists.
Abubacarr Fofana was on Charlotte’s roster last season but the game against UAB was the senior’s official première for the Green & White. He started the match and played 64 minutes. The season opener against Wofford was the official Charlotte première for several Niners. Evangelou, Moore, Morales, Tori, and Ogata recorded their first official CLT starts and freshman Grant Stewart and grad transfer Frost made appearances as reserves.
MORE HISTORY TO BE MADE
Last season, Coach Langan became the winningest coach in program history when Charlotte defeated visiting Detroit Mercy, 5-0, to give Langan his 118th win to surpass John Tart. Langan accomplished the feat in 55 fewer matches than Tart. Currently, his record sits at 128-55-29 and now that he has achieved that amazing milestone, the journey and countdown to 150 (and 200) victories begins now. Additionally, the 49ers are seeking their 10th NCAA Tournament appearance under Langan’s guidance. He has led CLT to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, three regular season conference championships, and the 2013 Conference USA Tournament Title.
LAST SEASON RECAP
Charlotte finished the year with a record of 9-5-2, but got off to its best start in program history, earning wins in each of its first seven matches and outscoring its opponents, 31-2, in those seven contests. CLT finished the year with 46 regular season goals which ranked first in the nation heading into postseason play. In true Langan fashion, the Niners also had a solid year at the back, keeping five consecutive clean sheets during the early portion of the season and holding its opponents to just 16 goals in 15 regular season matches. Charlotte fell in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to South Florida. The sixth-seeded 49ers lost 2-1 to the third-seeded Bulls despite out-tallying USF, 6-3, in shots on goal.
HOW’S THAT FOR A TUNE-UP
Charlotte won each of its two exhibition matches that were scheduled, going on the road to defeat Coastal Carolina, 1-0, and beating Queens (N.C.), 9-0. In a possible sign of things to come in the (hopefully near) future, freshman Ogata totaled four goals over the two matches. He netted the Aug. 12 game-winner and then turned in a hat trick against Queens on Aug. 19.
The Niners return to the Queen City for three consecutive matches at Transamerica Field. Charlotte’s next matchup is Friday, October 13 when Tulsa (4-4-2, 2-1) visits in conference action. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN+, HERE. Live statistics will also be available, HERE.
The conference road trip continues for Charlotte as the Niners travel to Tampa, Fla. to take on South Florida on Sunday, October 6. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the match will be broadcasted live on ESPN+.