|Preseason or not, Independence vs. NCFC is a rivalry game|
|In-state foes meet Sunday at Sportsplex|
|Published Friday, February 23, 2018 4:00 pm|
MATTHEWS—It’s rivalry weekend for the Charlotte Independence.
The Jacks host North Carolina F.C. at the Sportsplex at Matthews on Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. in their annual preseason friendly. It marks the first time the sides will meet as members of the USL. NCFC previously played in the NASL. Their only matches against each other included U.S. Lamar Hunt Open Cup games and preseason exhibitions.
“It is a preseason game, so we’ll have to somewhat manage it as that, but for me it’s a rivalry game,” midfielder Alex Martinez said. “Rivalry games you do not lose.”
Said coach Mike Jeffries: “Guys are always up for playing the cross–state rival. That’s always fun, and adds a little bit of an element to the game. At the end, for both teams, we’re pretty different rosters than where we were a year ago. It’s important that we’re able to look at guys, able to see where guys are, and see how well they fit with what we want, and what we have to tweak and make it work with guys that we have.”
Charlotte won their preseason opener 5-3 against the Columbus Crew in Charleston. Defender Bilal Duckett and midfielders Daniel Steedman and Alex Martinez scored, as well as two trialists.
“We are trying to figure out both our roster, getting guys into the system we want to play, and getting guys used to the things that we’re asking them to do,” Jeffries said. “It’s important in that we’re trying to make progress in how we play and the pace that we play and what we do on the field. That’s the main focus with us.”
This is Charlotte’s first preseason at Sportsplex, rather than their previous iterant ways at Ramblewood, the Charlotte 49ers Transamerica Field and Winthrop’s Eagle Field, none of which served as a preseason home site).
“My thoughts are a bit different from the coaching staff and some of the other guys,” Martinez said. “I take every game very personally. I like to play the game with a lot of passion. That being said, it’s a rivalry game. We always want to protect our home, and make it somewhere that no team can come in get an easy win, or even an easy place to play.”
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