Charlotte FC interim head coach Christian Lattanzio was “very proud” after his side beat Premier League side Chelsea on penalties in a friendly, but wants his players to turn their attentions to Saturday’s meeting with Toronto FC.

The Crown scored a 92nd minute equaliser to take the former European champions to spot-kicks, where they prevailed 5-3.

Charlotte will switch its attention now to a trip to Canada to take on the Reds, and Lattanzio praised the Chelsea performance while also calling on his side to refocus.

“Only two years ago they won the Champions League, so that tells us the level that we were facing today,” Lattanzio said. “It takes a lot of heart, it takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of resilience to go on the pitch and to try to play the way boys did.

“We have to enjoy (this win) because we earned the right, but from (Thursday), we have to be focused on the next game on Saturday, which is going to be a difficult game as well.”

Lattanzio’s Charlotte, which sits just one place and one point outside the playoff spots, will head to BMO Field knowing a win could take it into seventh.

Toronto, on the other hand, sits eight points out of the playoff spots but have been boosted this week by the arrival of Italian international Federico Bernardeschi, while countryman Lorenzo Insigne could also make his debut after he signed on a pre-contract from Napoli.

Whether the new boys can provide the Reds with the spark to make a late charge towards the playoffs remains to be seen, but Bernardeschi is excited for what lies ahead.

“I choose Toronto because this is a big project for the future,” the former Juventus man said. “MLS is very competitive, and it has a huge future. I decided to come here for a new opportunity to win, and to win internationally.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Toronto FC – Lorenzo Insigne

The new signing from Napoli could make his debut for the Reds against Charlotte after his arrival on a pre-contract. The Italian forward will look to get off to a positive start for his new side in this big game as Toronto looks to surge up the table.

Charlotte FC – Ben Bender

The first overall pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft leads Charlotte in assists with five, while adding three goals. Can he build on his impressive first MLS season with another goal involvement here?

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Toronto FC has lost only three of its 12 true home matches against expansion sides (W7 D2, excluding games in East Hartford, CT). The Reds have scored multiple goals in each of their last six true home matches against expansion sides (18 total goals, 3.0 per match).

– Toronto FC has taken just one point from its last five MLS matches (D1 L4) following a 1-0 defeat to CF Montreal on Saturday. The shutout loss marked the seventh time the Reds have failed to score in their last 12 MLS matches after having found the net in 13 consecutive games prior to this run.

Charlotte FC lost to Miami, 3-2, on Saturday after holding a 2-0 lead. The defeat was the eighth time Charlotte has conceded multiple goals in 11 road games in MLS, something it’s done only once in 10 games at home.

– The 1-0 defeat on Saturday was the 29th straight MLS match in which Toronto have allowed a goal, equaling the third-longest regular season run in league history (Tampa Bay 2000-01). If the Reds allow a goal on Saturday, it will equal the second-longest such streak in MLS history (Chivas USA – 30 straight in 2012-13).

– Charlotte got off to the best possible start on Saturday when Yordy Reyna scored after just 26 seconds. The goal tied the second-fastest goal scored from kickoff in MLS since the start of the 2017 season, with only Cristian Arango (0:20 for LAFC vs. RSL in 2021) doing so faster.