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Charlotte Independence aims to lock down back end on defense
Jacks (0-1-2) take on Saint Louis
 
Published Thursday, April 20, 2017 12:29 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

A lack of concentration in the defensive third stands between the Charlotte Independence and a clean sheet.


Charlotte (0-1-2) has given up four goals in the first three games, and has yet to claim all three points. The Jacks head to Saint Louis on April 22 at 8:30 p.m.

“You can call the goal against Pittsburgh [last week] a lack of concentration,” defender Bilal Duckett said. “You can call the goal against Orlando a lack of concentration. You can call at least one of the goals against Charleston a lot of concentration. Otherwise we are pretty clean. Really, it’s just putting together a full 90 minutes, 360 minutes, however you want to put it, across that back four, back five group where we don’t give them the opportunity to score. If we get called upon to make a big play a game per person, we should be comfortable doing that.”

The Jacks have yet to claim points against Saint Louis dating back to their inaugural season with a pair of 2-1 losses. Five games in, Saint Louis stands third in the East with 10 points (3-1-1), while the Jacks are last with two points.

“We’re not going to change anything we do,” goalkeeper Cody Mizell said. “We feel like we’ve played good football, and we’ve created better chances to win games. The mentality is the same no matter if we’re at home or away.”

Said midfielder Callum Ross: “This week we just focused more kind of in and around the box. We’ve been building up toward the final third really well, but kind of had a few problems in the final third—getting shots away and getting chances created. That’s been the focus this week, just putting the ball in the back of the net.”

Charlotte has started a different back four in their first three matches due to injury, with the only consistent presence from outside back Joel Johnson and rookie Luke Waechter, who has started at both center and outside back.

“It’s always going to be difficult incorporating new people, and even from preseason into the start of the season with various injuries,” Independence coach Mike Jeffries said. “It takes time for a defensive back four to become cohesive, get on the same page and sort of know what each other and what the guy next to them is doing without having to look and talk as much. That being said, I don’t feel like we’ve given up a ton of chances. The key for us is making sure the whole group defends together.”

While the Jacks iron out the back four, Mizell continues to start in goal.

“Cody has played well,” Jeffries said. “It would be hard to fault him on any of the goals. He’s been very solid in what he’s done. Organizationally, I do think there are times when we could be better, and we’ve gotten caught. Really when you look at the goals that we have conceded, one is a set piece and the other three are more or less pretty good counterattack type plays. We have to be a little better organized in terms of our ability defend teams when they do counter and deals with some of the plays in the middle of the field—stopping the attack and slowing things down. If we can manage those types of things, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

Said Mizell: “It’s kind of like for a striker scoring their first goal. It’s kind of a weight off their shoulders. We’re not worried about it. Obviously, we want to keep clean sheets every single game but at the beginning of the season mistakes happen. That’s not really the goal. The goal is more to win games, set your mentality as a team and go out and win the games.”

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