|Independence win Sportsplex debut with 2-0 win vs. Harrisburg|
|Herrera, Alex Martinez score for Jacks|
|Published Saturday, June 17, 2017 10:28 pm|
MATTHEWS—The Charlotte Independence have made themselves at home.
In a 2-0 win Saturday against Harrisburg in their inaugural match at the Sportsplex at Matthews, the Jacks memorialized a night of firsts.
“We held together,” coach Mike Jeffries said. “For the most part we did a good job of keeping everything in front of us, and being hard to play against. The field relative to other fields in the conference is very big. I think that makes the game a little more open at times, and probably makes it a little bit cleaner.”
Midfielders Jorge Herrera and Alex Martinez scored Charlotte’s first goals at the Sportsplex. Herrera’s came in the 13th minute off a free kick, and Martinez scored in the 62nd, slotting the ball home.
“The only thing I did was just tap it in—everybody else did the rest of the work, and I get some of the credit for punching it in, but the credit goes to the rest of the work,” Martinez said.
Said Herrera: “At the end of the day, the big thing was the 2-0 win.”
In addition to their first win, as well as their first match at the Sportsplex, it also marked Charlotte’s first clean sheet of the season.
“It’s always good to get a clean sheet, but it’s better to get three points,” goalkeeper Cody Mizell said. “Clean sheets will come. We’ve struggled with injuries. You’ve seen our backline change almost week to week, game to game. Even multiple games in a week, but it’s good to get the first clean sheet. It’s good to get the horse off your back. Just grind on into next week.”
Said defender Bilal Duckett: “I didn’t have my best game ever, but we got a shutout and the guys played really, really well. They kind of carried me along. Henry [Kalungi] made a lot of last-ditch tackles. Jun [Davidson] made some big plays. Cody made some big plays. It was a night where when people were called upon, they made plays, and we’ve been a little big unfortunate/shot ourselves in the foot a few times leading up to this moment. It wasn’t our prettiest match, but we did what we needed to do to get three points.”
Duckett, who started against the City Islanders, saw his first minutes since surgery on a bone spur earlier in the season. His return coincided with the absence of rookie center back Luke Waechter, who strained his left ACL in Cincinnati last week.
“I’m thankful,” Duckett said. “I’m blessed that my surgery went smoothly. I had surgery like four and a half weeks ago today. To get out here—this was a special night. It’s not many times in a career where you get to open up a brand new stadium in front of a sellout crowd. You could kind of just feel the energy—it felt like it meant something to a lot of people.”
Returning to a USL playoff spot with the win (eight in the East with 16 points), the Jacks sit 4-4-3.
Charlotte called three previous venues home in their first three seasons – Charlotte 49ers’ Transamerica Field, Winthrop’s Eagle Field and Ramblewood—where the club played in a temporary stadium that never saw completion, and has since been torn down.
“This is the first time where it’s felt like we’ve had a home,” Duckett said. “Ramblewood was great, but it was never really finished. So you come in and you see the side of the stadium isn’t done, and you see the plywood on the press box, and nothing against that, but this feels complete. Playing at a college campus, every time you come into a college campus, you know that it’s theirs. It’s not really yours. This feels like ours.”
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