|Mutaya Mwape's equalizer earns Independence draw vs. Charleston|
|First professial goal saves point for Charlotte|
|Published Saturday, June 16, 2018 11:02 pm|
MATTHEWS— Mutaya Mwape made the most of his minutes.
The Charlotte Independence rookie midfielder produced the equalizing goal against the Charleston Battery in a1-all draw Saturday, his first as a professional, as well as the Jacks’ (6-4-4, fourth in the USL East, 22 points) first point against the Battery (5-6-1, seventh, 21 points) this season.
“His ability to be involved in the game continually, and be kind of tuned in to be on the ball and find space has been really good,” Charlotte coach Mike Jeffries said. “His decision-making, when he can take guys on when he needs to just play and connect has gotten better as time goes on, and probably equally, just his ability to defend and give us a little bit of help in those areas has improved dramatically.”
Jeffries brought Mwape on for midfielder Cordell Cato in the second half against with the Jacks trailing 1-0. Mwape’s ability to produce on the dribble allowed him to capitalize for the Jacks, which Jeffries noted may have been intended as a cross rather than a shot. He took advantage of Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky, who came off his line.
“He was always off his line,” Mwape said. “The first time I got the ball, I saw him off his line, so I tried to chip him, and it worked.”
Said Jeffries: “[Mwape is] really just a great dribbler. We don’t have a ton of those guys. He offers something a little bit different when he comes onto the field.”
Mwape produced his first professional assist for the Jacks during their last home match, a 2-1 win against Toronto. It earned him a spot on the USL team of the week bench.
“He’s still a guy who has a little bit of something different, in terms of his ability to take guys on and make a play, and ideas in the final third,” Jeffries said.
Said Mwape: “Most of the guys on the team help me a lot. I haven’t been playing a lot, so I have to be focused and be ready whenever I get a chance, and just do what I can do.”
Mwape signed with the Jacks in February after playing two seasons at Lindsey Wilson College, where he scored 25 goals and tallied 19 assists over 34 starts. Last season’s 14 goals and team-high 12 assists earned him a spot on the 2017 NAIA All-America third team. He also spent last summer with 2017 PDL champions Charlotte Eagles.
“Mutaya brings a different pace for us,” said Charlotte striker Eagle Jorge Herrera, who is also a former Eagle. “His one-on-one is always a plus for us. Tonight that makes a difference. He gave us a point, and at the end of the season, all those points are the ones that you hope you have.”
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