Troy Lesesne is confident that D.C. United have the right players to get a result against a "difficult" Charlotte FC on Saturday.

D.C. have failed to win any of their last five matches, though did come from 2-0 down against Toronto FC to draw before the mid-season break.

They sit 10th in the Eastern Conference with 19 points, and despite missing a lot of players, Lesesne believes he has a squad capable of snapping their winless streak.

"We're not going to put energy into what we don't have," he said. "We're going to put all our focus onto a difficult opponent in Charlotte. It's a great atmosphere there, but it's a team we feel we can match up against and hopefully get some points.

"We have a task at hand and a capable group to get the job done this weekend. We have to concentrate on the things that we need to concentrate on, not the distractions, not the excuses.

"We have young talented players in this squad that can make an impact, and they can handle the pressure."

Meanwhile, Charlotte sit five places above them in the table and have six points more.

Despite finishing the first half of the season with a 3-2 victory over Atlanta United, defender Adilson Malanda thinks the club could be in an even stronger position.

Malanda said: "I think we could look better, we've given points away, but I think we're ready for the second part. Big part of dropping points was away, so we want to fix that to stay where we are, but it's important we win at home too."


Charlotte FC – Liel Abada

Abada scored Charlotte’s first multi-goal game of 2024 in the Crown’s 3-2 win over Atlanta. Abada is the eighth different Charlotte player to score multiple goals in a match, with only Inter Miami (nine) has more different players with a multi-goal game since the start of the 2022 season.

D.C. United – Mateusz Klich

Klich earned a valuable point with his late penalty in D.C.’s 2-2 draw with Toronto FC last time out. He is their joint-second scorer this season with two goals but is still 11 behind Christian Benteke’s tally of 13.


The home team have not lost any of the four meetings between Charlotte and D.C. United, with Charlotte recording a win and a draw in two matches at Bank of America Stadium. D.C. did not score in either match, one of two teams that have made multiple visits there without ever scoring (Inter Miami).

Charlotte have won four of their last seven matches (D2 L1) including a 3-2 win at Atlanta on June 2. The 14 points over the last seven games equals the second-most in any seven-game span in the club’s MLS history (15 in April-May 2023)

Meanwhile, D.C. have won one of their last 13 regular-season away matches (D6 L6) dating back to last July. United have failed to score in more than half (seven) of those games.


Charlotte FC – 52.1%

Draw – 24.4%

D.C. United – 23.4%

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers described the departure of Liel Abada as “desperately sad” but best for both parties after the Israel international moved to Major League Soccer side Charlotte FC.

Abada last played for Celtic in a 2-1 win over Hibernian on February 7, after which Rodgers felt he was not able to focus on reaching his peak.

The 22-year-old had come under major pressure in his homeland amid Celtic supporters’ backing for the Palestinian people with even an international team-mate publicly advising him to move on.

The winger signed a new four-year deal in September last year, just before suffering a thigh injury which kept him out for the best part of four months.

Rodgers bemoaned the loss of the opportunity to work with a player who scored 29 goals in 112 appearances.

“Firstly, it’s desperately sad, the whole situation,” the Celtic boss said. “A fantastic young player, came here as a 19-year-old, to another country and lit up the field with so many fantastic goals and had a really successful period.

“Whatever doubts he had in the summer, he was really happy to commit and sign a new deal.

“And now, through probably no fault of his own or the club’s, he has had to leave to take his career elsewhere.

“I spoke to Liel on Monday evening, we had him round the house, because I knew he was going to be travelling the next morning.

“It’s desperately sad because I was really, really looking forward to working with him over a period of time and seeing if we could develop his game.

“But if you look back, he has created some wonderful memories here at Celtic and I’m sure Glasgow will have a big place in his heart, and we wish him all the very best over in America.”

The situation flared up the day after the October 7 attacks in Israel when banners among Celtic fans which read “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the resistance” drew anger in Israel, including from former Hoops midfielder Nir Bitton.

Abada was given a huge ovation when he made his comeback against Rangers on December 30 but he did not rediscover his spark and he disappeared down the tunnel at Easter Road while his colleagues celebrated a last-gasp win after what proved to be a quiet, final appearance for Celtic.

“It was really, really difficult for him,” Rodgers said. “He was training every day, committed to his work, he is a top professional. But the situation, how it evolved, it felt very difficult.

“And football is a game very much of the mind. If you’re not quite focused or if you can’t put something aside, something as big as this, then of course it becomes very, very difficult to be at your very, very best. Sadly, that was the case for him.

“We spoke most days, just checking in to make sure he was OK, seeing him in his training, but ultimately he wants to play football.

“And when it got to the situation where I felt there was no chance, we both looked at it, and as a club as well, felt that the best possibility would be for him to move on.”

When asked whether pressure from Israel was weighing heavily on the player, Rodgers said: “It’s clearly a situation that was unplanned, and wherever it comes from, there were multiple reasons not to be in that frame of mind.

“But, listen, it’s done now. He has moved on, had a great two-and-a-half years, done very well, and we have to move on.”

Abada earlier posted a lengthy farewell message on Instagram where he thanked the Celtic fans who had stood by him.

The former Maccabi Petah Tikva player thanked Rodgers, his coaches and the Celtic board for their “overwhelming support” and added: “Their unwavering faith during these times won’t be forgotten but cherished forever.”

He added: “Reflecting on my journey here brings a smile to my face, the trophies lifted, goals celebrated, electric atmospheres and moments of pure bliss will forever be etched in my memory.”

He thanked his team-mates, family, girlfriend and Bitton plus the “incredible Israeli community in Glasgow”.

“And last but not least, thank you to all the Celtic fans,” he said. “Recent times were very difficult for myself and my family but I want to say thank you to all the Celtic fans that stood by me, supported and respected me as a Celtic player and I hope that I have given you few moments to remember me by.”

Liel Abada thanked all the Celtic fans who stood by him during a “very difficult” period after sealing his move to Major League Soccer.

The Israel international finalised a permanent transfer to Charlotte FC on Thursday night after his hugely-successful spell in Glasgow came to a premature end amid pressure in his homeland to move on in response to displays of support for the Palestinian people among Celtic supporters.

The winger made 112 appearances for Celtic after joining in the summer of 2021 – winning five major trophies – and netted his 29th and final goal against Aberdeen in the second game of this season.

A thigh injury suffered on international duty in September kept him out for the best part of four months but Abada did not return the same player amid huge pressure in his country to end his association with Celtic, which included public comments from Israel team-mates.

Banners among Celtic fans which read “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the resistance” on the day after the October 7 attacks in Israel sparked anger in Israel and criticism from former Hoops midfielder Nir Bitton.

Abada received a huge ovation when he returned from injury against Rangers on December 30, but it became clear to manager Brendan Rodgers that he could not focus on playing for Celtic.

The winger’s final match turned out to be a 2-1 win over Hibernian on February 7, when he went straight down the tunnel as his colleagues celebrated a last-gasp victory.

Abada, who signed a new four-year contract in early September, said his farewells on Instagram after what he described as two-and-a-half “incredible years”.

He wrote: “Where do I even begin? Leaving Celtic wasn’t in my plans, yet life’s unpredictable turns remind us that we’re not always in control.

“The past six months have been a personal challenge, yet the overwhelming support from the gaffer, coaches and board has been my rock. Their unwavering faith during these times won’t be forgotten but cherished forever.

“Reflecting on my journey here brings a smile to my face, the trophies lifted, goals celebrated, electric atmospheres and moments of pure bliss will forever be etched in my memory.

“To my team-mates and staff, thank you for pushing me to excel, not just as a player, but as a person. You’ve all played a pivotal role in shaping who I am today.

“A special shoutout to my family and my girlfriend, whose steadfast support and love have been my guiding light.

“Arriving in a new country at 19 was daunting, but Niro (Bitton) and his family welcomed me with open arms, making Scotland feel like home from day one. Their kindness made all the difference, on and off the pitch.

“To the incredible Israeli community in Glasgow, you’ve given me so much warmth and love. You hold a special place in my heart.

“And last but not least, thank you to all the Celtic fans. Recent times were very difficult for myself and my family but I want to say thank you to all the Celtic fans that stood by me, supported and respected me as a Celtic player and I hope that I have given you few moments to remember me by.

“It is now time to begin a new chapter on my journey in a new place and with new targets. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything.”

Celtic did not mention Abada’s departure on their official X – formerly Twitter – account but said on their website: “Everyone at Celtic thanks Liel for his great contribution to the club and we sincerely wish him the very best for the future.”

Celtic have allowed winger Liel Abada to leave the club for a fresh start in Major League Soccer.

The Israel international has signed for Charlotte FC in North Carolina, having not featured for the past five weeks due to personal reasons. Manager Brendan Rodgers had previously admitted he was struggling to focus as the conflict in Gaza continued.

Abada, 22, had faced pressure in his home country because of the support for Palestine among the club’s fanbase.

The situation first flared up the day after the October 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, which led to more than 1,100 deaths plus the taking of hostages, when two banners among Celtic fans at Parkhead read: “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the Resistance”.

Palestine flags have continued to be flown among Celtic supporters amid Israel’s ongoing military assault, which has left tens of thousands of Palestinians dead or wounded according to the Gaza health ministry.

Abada returned to the side on December 30 but was unable to recreate his previous good form in six subsequent appearances, which proved to be his last for Celtic.

His signing was announced by Charlotte, whose general manager Zoran Krneta focused on football rather than politics.

“Liel has been one of the most exciting young wingers in Europe and we’re delighted to welcome him to Charlotte,” he said.

“He’s an elite goalscorer and chance creator who is a proven winner that is determined to bring trophies home to the club and our supporters,” said General Manager Zoran Krneta. “To bring a player of his calibre to Major League Soccer speaks to the strength of the league, but also that Charlotte FC is an attractive destination for top foreign talent.”

Speaking last month after Abada opted to step away, Rodgers offered his understanding as he opened the exit door to the player.

“I have had lots of conversations with Liel and I am really empathetic towards the issue he has. It’s more than football. It’s at a human level, so I have to respect that.

“There’s many situations I have had to deal with as a manager over time, and lots of them you don’t get on the coaching courses. You have to understand and sit in his shoes. When he’s ready, if he ever is ready, then he will be able to give us everything.”

Abada was the second player to leave Celtic Park on Thursday, with left-back Alexandro Bernabei joining Brazilian side Internacional on loan for the rest of 2024.

The Porto Allegre-based club confirmed the deal for the Argentinian, who has only made 16 starts since arriving at Celtic Park in the summer of 2022.

Four of those starts came under Brendan Rodgers, all of them since the winter break when Greg Taylor was missing with a calf problem.

The 23-year-old came off the bench in the subsequent game but was culpable as Celtic conceded a stoppage-time equaliser against Kilmarnock.

That could prove to be his final appearance for the club if the loan move is made more permanent, although Bernabei is under contract at Celtic Park until the summer of 2027.

Celtic were dealt a Champions League blow with the news that Liel Abada will be out for three to four months with a thigh problem.

The 21-year-old winger picked up the injury on duty with Israel and is set to miss the Hoops’ six group games, which start with a trip to Rotterdam next week to play Feyenoord.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers said: “He has gone to London today for a scan but we think it is going to be around three to four months.

“It looks like he has done his thigh muscle. He picked it up at the end of training in a shooting exercise.

“It is a real shame for him because he has done well over pre-season and he has started in a lot of games since I have been here, so we are really disappointed but it is a squad game for us and we have other players to come in.

“He signed a new deal and he seemed happy and I was looking forward to continuing his development because he has lots of areas that he can improve on.

“It is a shame but he will work hard and get back and we will use him for the second part of the season.”

Rodgers did have some good news on the injury front ahead of the visit of Dundee in the cinch Premiership, saying: “Reo Hatate will be back, which is great news for us, he has trained.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has hailed Liel Abada’s contract extension after receiving “significant interest” in the Israel winger from elsewhere.

Abada has signed a new four-year deal after netting 29 goals in 105 appearances and winning five major trophies since joining the Hoops from Maccabi Petah Tikva in July 2021.

Rodgers told Celtic’s website he was delighted with the news, which follows extended deals for Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi earlier this summer.

“We know there was significant interest in Liel from other clubs so we’re delighted that he has committed his future to Celtic,” Rodgers said.

“Already he has made a great contribution to Celtic, delivering some great performances and making a real impact. His energy and ability are real assets to us and his delivery in terms of goals and assists from wide areas has been excellent.

“He is a fantastic young player and now we hope he can build on what he has achieved so far and develop even further.”

Abada added: “Every time I score for this club is really amazing. To score in Celtic Park is always special and the atmosphere is amazing.

“Hopefully I can show more this season for everyone and I will try and get better for the team.”

Rodgers has been keen to keep the core of his team together towards the end of the transfer window and earlier insisted Matt O’Riley was going nowhere after a reported £10million offer from Leeds.

Rodgers said at a media conference: “When you have good players, there’s always going to be interest but definitely Matt is a player that I want to have here and part of what I’m doing.

“I have been really impressed with him. We look forward to continuing working with him.

“We are trying to put strength into the squad rather than deplete it.”

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