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Charlotte FC, Fire hope to keep building on recent success

May 13, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Charlotte FC midfielder Justin Meram (22) kicks the ball against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams that did not have much go their way earlier this season are anxious to see if they can keep their new-found good times rolling.

The Chicago Fire and Charlotte FC will bring optimism into a matchup Wednesday night at Charlotte.

Charlotte (4-5-3, 15 points) has won its last two MLS games, recording three goals each time.

“This group is working really well,” Charlotte FC coach Christian Lattanzio said. “Now our job is to stay here and to move on.”

Justin Meram scored two goals Saturday night at Atlanta in just his third game since a trade from Real Salt Lake. Yet he wasn’t planning on spending lots of time dwelling on that success.

“I’ve learned throughout my long years,” Meram said. “I’ll turn the focus to Chicago. If you have a bad game, then everyone is against you.”

Chicago (3-3-5, 14 points) had one of its better outings in Saturday night’s 1-0 home victory against St. Lous City SC. Rafael Czichos scored the only goal.

Brian Gutierrez, a 19-year-old midfielder, has emerged as a key player for the Fire with a team-high four assists.

“He’s going to continue to grow and take more responsibility upon himself,” Chicago interim coach Frank Klopas said. “He’s really playing like a man now.”

The emergence of Gutierrez has come while playing alongside star midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri.

“We can combine very well,” Shaqiri said.

Chicago players have expressed a renewed sense of confidence with the return of Klopas to the coaching role after the dismissal of Ezra Hendrickson last week.

Chicago lost defender Carlos Teran with a knee injury in the St. Louis City SC game, so his availability seems unlikely for the midweek game.

Charlotte is waiting to learn the status of midfielder Kamil Jozwiak, who departed Saturday’s game with an injury.

“He’s a very, very important player for us,” Lattanzio said.

This will be the first of two home games in four nights for Charlotte FC.

The Fire are 1-3-0 in road games, with the lone victory coming in late March at Inter Miami.

–Field Level Media