|Charlotte Independence punch ticket to USL postseason|
|3-2 win against Cincinnati locks up playoff spot|
|Published Wednesday, August 31, 2016 9:32 pm|
|Charlotte Independence midfielder Enzo Martinez (left) scored on a rebounded penalty kick against FC Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt in Charlotte's 3-2 win Wednesday. The Independence clinched the franchise's first USL playoff berth.|
The Charlotte Independence is going to the playoffs.
With a 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati Wednesday, the Independence clinched a USL playoff berth for the first time in the franchise’s two-year history.
“We kept pushing, and we got the third goal,” said midfielder Enzo Martinez, who scored two goals and leads the independence with nine. “That’s just the attitude this team has.”
Two yellow cards took Independence defender Bilal Duckett out of the match in the second half, leaving Charlotte to play the remaining minutes with 10 men. Thus, they parked the bus by bringing on several defenders and milking the clock to their advantage.
“A good character test to come back from down a man and manage the game, and to come back from giving away two leads,” Charlotte coach Mike Jeffries said. “I thought the guys at the end showed a lot of character to get back in it.”
Midfielder Jorge Herrera’s free kick in the 85th minute resulted in a Cincinnati own goal, which clinched the lead for Charlotte.
“I give so much credit to Jorge,” Jeffries said. “He’s handled a very difficult role with incredible class and style. Every time he comes on the field, he steps up the level of the game and he brings us a different element. I know it’s not been easy for him. I know he feels like ‘I’m a regular guy. I should be on the field all the time.” But he’s done it, and today is a prime example. Not just the goal, but just some other plays that were really game-winning type plays.”
Said Herrera, who turns 36 on Sept. 11: “We played one of the top teams in our conference. It’s always really good winning the way that we did today—showing a lot of character, a lot of team effort. At the end of the day, those are the things that make [the difference between] good teams and excellent teams.”
Standing 12-7-6, Charlotte has five regular season matches remaining, including three on the road.
The match against Cincinnati, originally scheduled for May 21, was pushed back due to poor field conditions. It didn’t matter to the Independence, who are 5-1-2 in their last eight matches.
“When that game came up, we were actually on a really good run at that point in the beginning of the season,” Jeffries said. “We were really looking forward to it. The difference between playing this in May and playing this August/September is the intensity ratchets up. There is just a little bit more on the line for both of us, because now we know what we are fighting for. In the beginning of the season, you are just kind of getting yourself going. You want to earn points, but you are not yet in a spot where you want to get the possible home field for playoffs. That changes the intensity of the games a little bit.”
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