|Charlotte Independence open fast with 4-1 result vs. Ottawa|
|Jacks win season opener for first time|
|Published Saturday, March 17, 2018 10:41 pm|
MATTHEWS—The Charlotte Independence made history tonight.
A 4-1 win in their USL season opener against Ottawa marks the first season opening win for the Jacks in the franchise’s four-year history. Midfielder Cordell Cato scored off defender Donnie Smith’s corner kick in the first half, giving Charlotte their first lead in a season opener. Cato doubled their advantage off a ball from defender Joel Johnson before the Fury made it 2-1 off a goal from striker Seoane Sito.
“It was something that we practiced in training,” Smith said. “Really emphasized trying to play the ball at the near post, and then just getting guys in front of the goal, and hopefully someone will tap it in, which happened.”
Said Cato: “My sole job here is to bring all of the experience I gathered since I started playing professionally, and to do anything in my power to help the team win. You guys mentioned [on the Sports Charlotte podcast] that we didn’t win the home opener, and that sat on my mind. That’s something I personally worked toward. You first game, it kind of gets you running. To come out and do it how we did, it’s an even better feeling.”
Coach Mike Jeffries emphasized the importance of capitalizing on set pieces, which Charlotte did twice against Ottawa. Striker Jorge Herrera converted a penalty kick, then scored Charlotte’s fourth goal minutes later.
“It was special,” Herrera said. “It is my oldest son’s, [Jeronimo’s] birthday.”
Ottawa dominated possession against the Jacks, a trait typically characteristic of Charlotte.
“It was not, in a lot of ways our typical performance,” Jeffries said. “We could be better in possession, but I thought we were really dynamic going forward in a lot of ways. When we were able to go forward at pace, we created a lot of good chances.”
Charlotte started five players who had previously seen action for the club. They had an entirely different midfield, which led to an uncertain first 15 minutes for the Jacks. Yet veteran defensive midfielder Kevan George stressed the need for his teammates to “relax.” His presence in the center of the park replaces that of Jun Marques Davidson.
“Kevan is fantastic for us,” Jeffries said. “The number of balls that he wins on the day, and his ability to connect passes and keep plays going is going to be big. As he gets used to the guys around him even further, it will enhance his ability to find different passes. On the day, his ability to close guys, to organize the midfield, to win balls and to get our attack started was huge.”
Beating the Fury at the Sportsplex’s first season opener sets the tone for future matches in their new home, which they moved into last June. Charlotte plays six of their first eight games at home.
“This is a fortress,” defender Bilal Duckett said.
Said Jeffries: “It’s certainly nice for us. It puts a little bit of pressure on to get results. Home games in our league, as in any league, are vital. You want to get points out of the game. It allows us to settle into a little bit of a rhythm, and help with the new guys, and not have to deal with the travel having to deal with the difficulties of playing on the road.”
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