Charlotte FC tops Chelsea in PKs in Queen City Thriller

By Nathaniel Marrero (@Nate_Marrero)

With the game in its waning seconds, Brian Romero’s shot at the goal led to a handball by Chelsea FC, breathing life back into Charlotte FC. 

That set up Daniel Rios with a chance to tie the game with a penalty kick in extra time. He would come through and tie the game 1-1 at the end of regulation and forced PKs.

After both teams exchanged goals in the first two rounds, Charlotte (8-11-1) pulled ahead in the third round with a goal from Anton Walkes and Conor Gallagher missed his attempt for Chelsea. After they exchanged goals in the fourth round, Charlotte had a chance to put the game away in the fifth round. 

Kamil Józwiak would seal the deal, making Charlotte’s fifth PK and giving the inaugural club a 5-3 win over Chelsea in PKs. 

“Players of that quality, it’s difficult to play against them,” Charlotte head coach Christian Lattanzio said of Chelsea. “They couldn’t play the fútbol so fluidly because I think our guys were determined to work hard and to press for the whole game so I’m very proud. Then after, even getting the win, it was like the cherry on the cake.” 

The international friendly, which is a part of the FC Series, took place at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Rios’ game-tying goal and goal in PKs led to him being named the Man of the Match. 

Chelsea controlled through most of the first half and had possession for 55% of the game. That led to the London-based club taking 17 shots in regulation.

“We had enough quality in the first half to dominate and to finish the game off in the first 15, 20 minutes,” Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel said. “This is what I believe. If we keep on struggling to not feel these things and to not finish these things, it will not be the first time that we get punished because this is what happens if you keep an opponent alive, if you keep belief alive, if you keep the stadium alive.” 

Anything can happen in fútbol, that’s why we love the game,” Tuchel said. “This is on us. I have a feeling they played with more courage.”

Charlotte took 13 shots. 

In the 30th minute, Michy Batshuayi took a shot at the goal and it deflected off of a Charlotte player, finding its way to Christian Pulisic. Pulisic would find the back of the goal to break the tie. 

Pulisic is also an American captain. 

Both teams made changes to a majority of their starting lineups to begin the second half. 

Charlotte proved to be much more effective offensively in the second half, but they had nothing to show for it. 

Then with the game approaching extra time, 16-year-old Romero took a shot at the goal, resulting in a handball and a yellow card on Trevoh Chalobah. 

“Brain is a very talented kid that we’ve been keeping an eye on for a while,” Lattanzio said. “We know what he can give, he already trained with us on a number of occasions and you can see how happy the squad was when he came on and when he did a great run…He has great confidence to do that against anybody.”

That set up Rios with a chance to tie the game, which he would do in the 92nd minute on a penalty kick. 

Chelsea will be back in action on Saturday when it faces Arsenal FC at Camping World Stadium in the Florida Cup. 

Chelsea begins its regular season on Aug. 6 when they host Everton FC. 

For Charlotte, they will continue this momentum on Saturday when they go on the road to face Toronto FC (5-12-4).

“It takes a lot of courage and it takes a lot of character and the boys showed that today,“ Lattanzio said. “I hope that they take a lot of confidence out of that because we have many important games to play in MLS and we need to go and approach them with the same resilience that we did today.”

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