From USL/Charlotte Independence Reports
CHARLOTTE, NC (Aug. 22, 2015) — The Charlotte Independence (7-6-8) on Saturday night improved its USL unbeaten streak to seven matches with a crucial 2-1 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Riverhounds (9-9-5). With the win the Independence pull within three points of the sixth and final playoff spot, currently occupied by the Riverhounds. However, Charlotte still has two games in hand.
“This was an important game, as close to a must-win as we could have with the way our schedule is and the remaining games at home and Pittsburgh being above us (in the standings),” Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries said. “This puts us a step closer to at least the playoff conversation. The thing we talked about is, it’s not enough to be unbeaten. We have to start winning games and getting points, so on that end it’s huge.”
Daniel Jackson was the catalyst for the Independence in the first half. He created a handful of opportunities before Charlotte earned a corner kick in the seventh minute. Enzo Martinez stepped up to take the kick, lofting the ball right to Jackson. The forward got his head on in and knocked it right to the back of the net.
The Riverhounds nearly equalized on the restart, as Max Touloute found space in front. Luckily for the Independence his shot went off the post.
Charlotte continued to control the game and was rewarded again in the 38th minute. Carlos Alvarez settled a long pass from Patrick Slogic on the sideline and found Martinez in front. The midfielder buried his shot from eight yards out to put the home side up 2-0.
“We do feel like we have a very competitive group,” Jeffries said. “It’s great to see guys step up and take responsibility and make a difference when their number comes up. Credit to Enzo — Enzo’s been very sharp for the last month-and-a-half when we’ve been without Jorge (Herrera). And DJ, he doesn’t start a ton of games but he gets goals for us.”
The Independence’s impressive start was almost wiped away in the 61st minute. Goalkeeper John Berner came off the line to make a save, but the ball was stolen before he could get to it. The back line swarmed the ball, giving Berner time to scramble back in net before the Riverhounds got a shot off. When they did, it hit the crossbar.
Pittsburgh got another opportunity in the 89th minute. Danny Earls sent a beautiful pass to Willie Hunt, who used his head to beat Berner high.
An Independence player was tackled shortly after the restart and a scrum broke out on the field. Once the officials had time to sort things out it was Ryan Finley and Earls who were shown red cards, and former Independence player Ben Newnam given a yellow. Both teams would finish stoppage time with 10 men.
“This is a pretty good rivalry,” Jeffries said. “Certainly this is an important game and I think we’re getting now to the part of the USL season where the games are a little tighter, a little more tense, so you start seeing these types of things more often. I’m not happy with the melee at the end but I respect our guys for at least coming out to sort out a guy that got tackled pretty hard.”
The Riverhounds next game will be next Saturday, August 29, at USL Eastern Conference’s second place Louisville City.