Charlotte FC interim head coach Christian Lattanzio says he and his players are “embracing the challenge” that comes with attempting to return to winning ways.

Lattanzio’s side have lost back-to-back games, against Inter Miami CF and then Toronto FC, conceding a combined seven goals in those two road matches.

Charlotte have slipped out of the Eastern Conference playoffs as a result, but Lattanzio is confident his side have the quality in their ranks to get back on track.

Speaking ahead Saturday’s clash with Columbus Crew, the Italian said: “We embrace the challenge. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind the challenge and the progress we’re making.

“I still believe that we have got time and we have to focus on one game at a time, prepare the game, play that the strongest with the strongest 11 that we can for that team.

“And then we’ll review the week and we go again. I can count on a number of players that are all good and that they can all bring something to the table.”

Columbus make the trip to Bank of America Stadium unbeaten in nine MLS matches, form that has propelled them into sixth place in the East.

The Crew were unable to break down New England Revolution last time out in a goalless draw, but head coach Caleb Porter is taking positives from that match.

“Two clean sheets in a row. Again, you’ll look at the positive. This team is really blossoming, flourishing, showing a strong mentality. We’re in a healthy position.

“I’m not worried about the goals. We’ll score goals. That’s going to be disappointing for our group and myself when we don’t because it wasn’t like we weren’t in good spots.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Guzman Corujo

Charlotte have conceded seven straight goals without themselves scoring across their past two matches. They have been very solid defensively at home, but Guzman Corujo – used in every game so far this campaign – must step up and ensure the those most recent two games are merely a blip.

Columbus Crew – Lucas Zelarayan

Zelarayan was unable to find a way through against New England last weekend, and that tends to spell trouble for the Crew. The 30-year-old has been involved in seven of his side’s past eight MLS goals, one of his own and six assists, including each of the past four.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– This will be the second MLS meeting between Charlotte and the Crew, with the sides drawing 1-1 in Columbus on June 18. The Crew are unbeaten in their past six matches against expansion sides (W3 D3, incl. playoffs) dating back to the start of the 2019 season.

– Charlotte FC return home after a pair of road losses, having won seven of their first 10 home MLS games. Charlotte are the third expansion team in MLS history to win at least seven of their first 10 home matches after Chicago (8) in 1998 and Atlanta (7) in 2017.

– The Crew are unbeaten in nine straight matches (W4 D5), the longest active streak in the league, following a scoreless draw against New England on Saturday. Columbus have just two double-digit unbeaten runs in their MLS history, going 12 in a row without losing in 2017 and 18 straight without defeat in 2004.

– Charlotte conceded seven goals over their past two matches, both on the road. Charlotte have allowed just seven total goals in 10 home matches this season, only the Union (6) have let in fewer goals in home matches this year.

– Since Zelarayan joined the Crew in 2020, the team has a record of W20 D5 L4 in matches in which he has contributed to at least one goal.