|Colorado signs Jacks' top scorer Enzo Martinez to 1-year deal|
|Striker is two-time USL MVP finalist|
|Published Monday, February 19, 2018 6:24 pm|
The Charlotte Independence have to replace their all-time leading scorer.
Striker/midfielder Enzo Martinez has signed a one-year contract with the Jacks’ MLS affiliate Colorado Rapids. He and Independence teammate Joel Johnson trained with the Rapids during preseason, but Johnson has returned to Charlotte to solidify the Independence at outside back. Without Martinez, there’s a hole up top.
“The obvious answer is that Enzo is not really replaceable,” Charlotte coach Mike Jeffries said. “You don’t go out and find another Enzo, not only in terms of the production, but the heart and the energy that he put into the group. That certainly makes it a difficult situation for us, because you don’t know what’s going to happen until the start of our preseason basically—sort of late in the recruiting cycle.”
Martinez was a USL MVP finalist in 2016 and 2017, and was second in scoring in last year. He leaves Charlotte with 29 goals, including 17 of the Jacks’ 53 tallies in 2017.
“We as an organization are very happy and proud of Enzo,” Jeffries sad. “It’s a reflection for him of the efforts he has put in over the last few years to get the opportunity to get back to an MLS team, and it’s deserved. For him to get that chance, he has taken it in the way that only Enzo does—he is grabbing it and running with it as fast as he can.”
Colorado Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith said in a statement: “Enzo has really stood out for us this preseason. He’s been with us from the first day of training camp and has impressed everyone with his quality and work ethic. His résumé at the USL level speaks for itself and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in Major League Soccer.”
Charlotte won its preseason opener 5-3 against the Columbus Crew in Charleston, S.C., with Alex Martinez, Enzo’s brother, defender Bilal Duckett, midfielder Daniel Steedman and two trialists scoring.
“Without Enzo, it does mean that some of the other guys will step up a little bit more,” Jeffries said. “Maybe some of the guys who were here, and we continue to look in different ways at guys who can come in and contribute to the roster.”
Without Martinez in the attacking third, change is inevitable, but Jeffries noted the club will look different anyway with midfielders Jun Marques Davidson, David Estrada, Lewis Hilton and Callum Ross no longer on the roster.
“Does it mean necessarily that we play slightly differently? Of course,” Jeffries said. “You take the group of guys that you have on the field, and you try and find the best way for them to play together, and get the most out of all of them. Enzo was certainly a big part of how we played, as were other guys who are no longer with us. No matter what, it’s going to be a little bit different look for us on the field this year. We feel good about being able to find a way to play that keeps us very competitive in the league. Obviously we plan and hope to be above the level we have been at.”
Charlotte plays USL newcomer North Carolina F.C. in a Feb. 25 exhibition at Sportsplex in Matthews. The Jacks open the regular season against Ottawa on March 17 in Matthews.
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