Charlotte FC notes: Brandt Bronico suspended, Karol Świderski returns, Toronto FC looms
Another personnel shakeup is in store for Charlotte FC as it heads into this weekend’s match against Toronto.
A big reason? Brandt Bronico’s suspension.
Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that Bronico, a key midfielder for the Queen City club, will have to serve a one-match suspension and pay an undisclosed fine for “serious foul play” during Charlotte’s match on March 25. The foul in question came in the 23rd minute, when Bronico lunged for the ball and swung his leg and made contact with the shin of Omir Fernandez.
There was no card given on the play in the moment. But the league bookmarked the play, notified Charlotte FC that the play was being reviewed on Monday and then subsequently announced the suspension on Wednesday. The MLS Disciplinary Committee only provides supplemental discipline if it believes “the offense is egregious in nature, and/or it must act to protect player safety, and/or it must protect the integrity of the game, and/or the player is guilty of repeat behavior,” per a statement from Major League Soccer.
Charlotte FC coach Christian Lattanzio responded to the suspension Thursday morning — saying, in part, that the penalty was “quite harsh.”
“I was very surprised because from where I was it didn’t look like a malicious tackle,” Lattanzio told reporters in a weekly availability. “I thought it was just a tackle a little out-of-time, out-of-sync. The ref didn’t think a lot of that, and I thought it was in a good spot. I think it’s quite harsh to go from nothing to a red card. But I don’t want to talk too much about that. I don’t want to take away the focus on what matters on this issue. This is for our club to deal with the league. But it is what it is.”
The manager added: “(I don’t think) it had a big impact in the game apart from the effective time. I thought that (New York Red Bulls) tried to waste as much time as possible, when they should have been a little bit more firm in that. But other than that, it is what it is, I don’t want to talk too much about that. Obviously we would have liked to have Brandt at our disposal, but it is the decision from the league and we need to move on.”
Charlotte’s match against RBNY was physical. Lattanzio used a variation of the word “bully” a lot in his postgrame presser, remarking at one point, “If anyone bullies us, we will bully back.” And Bronico is an important part of the team’s don’t-back-down spirit.
So who will replace Bronico at the midfield?
It’s a question that touches on a lot of personnel possibilities swirling the club at the moment.
Lattanzio said he expects Ashley Westwood, team captain and another midfielder, to miss his second-consecutive game with a thigh injury on Saturday, adding to the pain of Bronico’s absence. That said, Nuno Santos played with flair and much-needed creativity in his start against RBNY, and Karol Świderski has returned from his brief hiatus with the club while he was representing Poland in the Euro Qualifiers.
“It’s not a secret the midfielders that we have,” the coach said. “They are there to be seen. We have Ben (Bender). We have Chris (Hegardt). Obviously Nuno (Santos). Karol (Świderski) is back. So we have a number of options we can use. We want to consolidate the work that we’ve been doing the last few weeks. Of course Brandt and Ash, they are two important players for our team, for our squad. But I’m sure whoever takes their place will give their best, and there will be playing with energy and tempo and commitment that I want.”
Here are five other notes on Charlotte FC before it hits the road to play Toronto FC on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
5 notes ahead of Charlotte FC vs. Toronto
▪ Bill Tuiloma and Ashley Westwood’s injury status. Westwood wasn’t the only one battling a thigh injury last match. Central defender Bill Tuiloma was, too. But the player traded from Portland Timbers right before the start of the season has looked good in training the past few days, Lattanzio said: “Bill is back in training, we will monitor again tomorrow for the session before we actually leave to Toronto. But we hope he’s going to be available for selection.”
▪ Karol Świderski’s return. Lattanzio watched Świderski’s match against Albania on Monday — one where the left-footed star punctuated a spirited performance with a goal — and said the player “is going to travel with the team, and we’re happy to have him back.” (Świderski didn’t play against Orlando City SC during Charlotte FC’s first win of the season. The team confirmed that was a tactical decision, one of personnel shakeups prompted by the team’s 0-3 start.)
Let's go Karol Świderski
The @CharlotteFC striker puts Poland on top! #EURO2024Qualifiers
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 27, 2023
▪ George Marks continues to receive high praise. The 23-year-old Clemson graduate has proven his shot-stopping abilities time and time again during Charlotte FC’s successful last two weeks. He received more praise on Thursday from his head coach. Lattanzio added that Marks and Pablo Sisniega are competing for the starting spot every day and that they push each other well: “Sometimes you have to make choices because things work not in the way that you would like, and you want to see different things in the team. That always has to be the center of my thoughts, is the collective. And so we decided together with the coaching staff to give George and opportunity. He interprets the role with his own flavor, with his own characteristics. And so far he’s done well.”
▪ Crown Legacy FC debuted last weekend. Charlotte FC’s MLS NEXT Pro team debuted on the Sunday after the top team’s match on Saturday at Sportsplex in Matthews. The team notched a 2-2 draw against Huntsville City FC. but couldn’t notch the additional point (losing 4-3 in the penalty shootout). Among the notable players who got action in the contest: Adam Armour (still recovering from a knee injury), Ben Bender, Jan Sobocinski and Hamady Diop.
▪ What to know about Charlotte FC’s upcoming contest with Toronto FC. CLTFC (1 win, 3 losses, 1 draw) is set to face Toronto (1 win, 1 loss, 3 draws) on Saturday. You can catch the game on Apple TV with MLS Season Pass. Charlotte was the only team Toronto defeated twice last season — and Federico Bernardeschi scored in both of those wins. Said Lattanzio: “We know that he has this ability of creating situations when he comes inside, when he shoots from outside the box, from set pieces. We are fully aware. ... It’s difficult to stop a player completely from playing. But the job we have to do — and not only with him and also other players Toronto has — is to limit the moments in which they can express their best qualities.”