|For first time since PDL return, no postseason for Charlotte Eagles|
|3-2 loss to S.C. United ensures losing season|
|Published Saturday, July 7, 2018 11:00 pm|
MATTHEWS—It’s been a season to forget for PDL soccer in Charlotte.
The Charlotte Eagles will miss the playoffs for the first time since returning to the PDL when they self-relegated following the 2014 USL season. Their 3-2 loss tonight to S.C. United Bantams (7-4-1) puts them 3-6-3 and fourth in the South Atlantic Division with games July 11 at Carolina Dynamo and July 14 against North Carolina F.C in the home finale at the Sportsplex.
“My job for the rest of the summer is to continue to prepare guys for the rest of their career; whether that is going back to college in the fall season, or their desire to go pro,” first-season Eagles head coach Luke Helmuth said. “I’m going to continue to believe in this group, and help them get better, and help them be the best version of themselves.
That’s what we’ve been going after really since the start of the summer, and that’s really our focus now since we can’t make the playoffs.”
Said midfielder Lucas Rosa: “We’re just playing for pride at this point. Playing for our host families, who have been doing a great job for us. Playing for ourselves, for our teammates, because everyone is going back to school in two weeks. We’re trying to make the best of our time together.”
Titles are out of the realm of possibility for the Eagles, last year’s league champion, because they have struggled to produce in the final third—an area of past strength. They have scored 18 goals and allowed 25. Six of Charlotte’s goals came in a win against the Dynamo on June 6, their last win. The Eagles scored 30-plus goals in each of their previous two campaigns while limiting goals conceded to 14 in 2017 and eight in 2016.
“We’re improving in front of goal,” Helmuth said. “We scored two goals each in our last three games. We’re starting to find things. Lucas Rosa has had a goal in at least the last three games. He’s starting to find the net, and creating chances in different ways. It’s starting to come together. Giving up goals was more of our problem tonight—especially in the first half.”
Said Rosa: “For the past three games, he’s been playing me higher on the field,” Rosa said. “I had more opportunities to get on the ball in the final third, find shots and assists. That’s been working out of me. That’s where I play my best.”
Charlotte was a league power under coach Dave Dixon, who took the Eagles to a 30-5-7 record over three seasons, including 10-0-4 in 2014, which earned him PDL coach of the year and a division title. In 2016, they went 11-2-1 and won their division. Last season’s PDL title came with a 9-3-2 record, good for second in their division. Dixon departed for a position as assistant coach with USL’s Indy Eleven in the spring, and recommended Helmuth, a member of his staff in Charlotte since the beginning, to take his place.
“We had a really good conversation last week that was encouraging for me,” Helmuth said. “He was just talking me through what the season has been like, how do I respond, how do I grow as a coach, and one of the things that he told me that was really big was that at the end of this summer I’ll have basically a whole summer’s worth of games as a head coach. All of those things, whether it’s been good or bad, there are ways for me to look back at it, review, grow and get better. It was encouraging to hear that.”
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