On a beautiful summer evening in Charlotte, Swansea City played its first preseason match Wednesday in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,116, which set an attendance record for the USL Club’s Ramblewood Stadium.
Swansea began its preseason campaign in comfortable fashion with a 4-0 victory against the third-tier opposition. While Charlotte had chances to score, Swansea controlled most of the possession during the game and showed their fitness in the second half to take the 1-0 lead at the interval into a convincing 4-0 finish at the end of the 90 minutes.
For me, watching this match was a completely surreal experience. As a Swansea City supporter for 39 years and counting, and having been born and raised in Wales until I was 14 when I moved to Florida, this is the first time I was able to watch the Swans live in-person in the United States.
Hearing the Welsh national anthem before the match as the players lined up, I almost had tears in my eyes — which brought back memories of Wales’ incredible run of wins at Euro 2016.
Speaking of Euro 2016, several key players were absent Wednesday night for Swansea including Gylfi Sigurdsson, captain Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor, Lukasz Fabianski as well as Copa America participant Jefferson Montero and Africa Cup of Nations qualifier participant Andre Ayew. Ki Sung Yueng, meanwhile, is conducting his military service in South Korea.
Nevertheless the starting lineup for the Swans featured Nathan Dyer, who won a Premier League title medal with Leicester last season after his loan spell there, as well as club stalwart Leon Britton and familiar footballers Jack Cork, Kyle Naughton and Federico Fernandez. Plus Swansea coach Francesco Guidolin gave first senior starts for striker Oliver McBurnie as well as Joe Rodon and Daniel James.
Swansea opened the scoring in the 27th minute after a long range effort curled into the corner of the net from debutant McBurnie.
Out of all of the players in the first half, it was Swansea’s Dyer who was a step above his teammates and opposition. Dyer was able to create space by cutting in and out of the opposing defenders, making penetrating runs and causing plenty of havoc on the edge of the box and down the wings. Dyer played a floating role with Kenji Gorre with both players switching positions throughout the match. Unfortunately, Gorre failed to make much of an impression, albeit some of that could be summed up to it being the first match of the preseason.
The other player who made a very positive impression in the first half was Oliver McBurnie, the lanky Scottish striker who made several positive runs as well as scoring the opening goal. In the highlight compilations of McBurnie’s goals for previous clubs, most of the goals he scored were from headers, so it was refreshing to see him score one with his foot.
In the second half, Swansea made nine changes with Leroy Fer, Wayne Routledge, new signing Mike van der Hoorn, Mo Barrow and others playing the second 45 minutes.
In the 52nd minute, Swansea doubled the scoreline after Leroy Fer released an inch-perfect pass that led to a cross and then a tap in at the far post by Wayne Routledge.
The standout player for Swansea in the second half was Leroy Fer who commanded the midfield, linking up well with other players when moving forward and creating plenty of chances for the wingers and strikers. His ability to switch the play on the field with his inch-perfect passes kept Charlotte midfielders and defenders on their toes.
In the 71st minute, Routledge got his brace as he used his speed to get past his defender for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, where he knocked the ball past the approaching keeper and slotted the ball into the back of the net.
Swansea made it 4-0 in the 81st minute after Kenji Gorre scored from a tap in with an assist from Routledge.
Despite being down 4-0, the Charlotte Independence supporters were in good voice, continuing to sing for their team. The supporter groups did Charlotte proud.
At the same time, there was an impressive turnout of Swansea City supporters from across the United States including some that had come from as far away as California, Florida and Pennsylvania to watch their favorite team in-person.
Overall, it was a comfortable outing for Swansea with several younger players gaining confidence while the regular team squad got much-needed game time to prepare for the new season.
Swansea’s next game on their American tour is against Richmond Kickers on Saturday, July 16. Tickets are available from the Kickers website.