Charlotte FC’s schedule beefs up as it preps for long string of MLS matches on the road

Charlotte FC is rolling along, with only one loss in its past six MLS matches, but now it gets real.

The Queen City side will test its newfound muscle Saturday night against the league’s best defensive team. And after that comes a stretch with four road games in five matches.

Charlotte FC, which has climbed from near the Eastern Conference cellar into seventh place, faces third-place Nashville SC at 7:30 p.m. in Bank of America Stadium.

Nashville (6-3-4) has allowed only eight goals this season and has a plus-9 goal differential.

That means a stern test for Charlotte (5-5-3), which has a minus-5 goal difference.

“Defensively, we know they are very well-coached and very organized,” Charlotte coach Christian Lattanzio said Friday. “And they have quality on the offensive side too.”

Charlotte FC beat Atlanta 3-1 on the road last Saturday and then scored a come-from-behind 2-1 victory Wednesday at home against the Chicago Fire.

Lattanzio said Nashville’s defensive strength will test an area of Charlotte’s team that he feels needs improvement.

“I want to see improvement in the last third,” he said. “I want to see us push the ball more there.”

In Wednesday night’s victory, Charlotte FC dominated possession for much of the match but never got a shot on goal until well into the second half.

“Players sometimes confuse patience with being lethargic,” he said, adding that he wants to see the team keep its collective cool — i.e., patience — but know when to attack.

One player who was willing to attack Wednesday night was 21-year-old Brandon Cambridge, who entered the match in the 61st minute and scored his first two MLS goals.

Cambridge was named the MLS Player of the Matchday and has been in the spotlight for several days.

Despite all that, don’t be surprised to see Cambridge used in a substitute role again.

“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Lattanzio said of Cambridge’s training. “He has a good head on his shoulders. He’s trained this week as if nothing happened. We need to keep him grounded.”

Hitting the road

After Saturday’s match, Charlotte won’t play at home again until facing the Seattle Sounders on June 10.

The Queen City team plays at the LA Galaxy next Saturday, then visits the Philadelphia Union on May 31 and the Columbus Crew on June 3.

Injury report

George Marks, Kamil Jozwiak, McKinze Gaines and Ben Bender are listed as “out” of Saturday’s match.

Forward Kerwin Vargas, who has scored two goals this season, might see action. He is recovering from an injury to his lower left leg, but Lattanzio said he might play Saturday.

“He trained with us today,” he said. “He looks improved. We’ll see how he looks after the training session.”

Lattanzio also had an optimistic report on defender Guzman Corujo, who has not played yet this season while recovering from surgery to his right knee.

“He is not ready to be put on the (active) squad, but he is getting close,” Lattanzio said.

How to watch, listen

The match will be televised on Apple TV, as part of the MLS Season Pass package. Radio coverage will be on WFNZ-FM (92.7), in English; and WOLS-FM (106.1), in Spanish.