|Jeffries returns to sideline, Independence respond with a win|
|GM coaches Jacks to victory in 2019 debut|
|Published Saturday, June 15, 2019 10:41 pm|
MATTHEWS—Mike Jeffries wasn’t buying what the Charlotte Independence were selling since the start of the season.
His first game back at the helm—a 4-1 win against Birmingham—is their second of the season. Charlotte fired Jim McGuinness, known abroad for his Gaelic football success in Ireland, on Wednesday. McGuinness, the second head coach in club history, went 1-7-6 in USL Championship. Charlotte has never started so poorly.
“Just before Wednesday, [club president] Jim McPhilliamy had spoken with me about taking back over, and that he had made the decision to let Jim McGuinness go,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries’ elation at the result against Birmingham could hardly be contained on the sidelines, as he hugged players heading toward the supporters section on the far side of the field. He applauded the crowd of 3,544, a regular-season record.
“Just wanted the [players] to go out and play with intensity and passion and belief,” Jeffries said. “We wanted to put together a team that represents the Independence well. We just worked no getting them to know that they are a talented group and can play and believe in themselves, and get it done. I give the guys credit, because they showed a lot of passion. The work rate and the energy was phenomenal tonight.”
Six of the Independence’s starting XI played for Jeffries in previous seasons. Three of them were involved in goals: midfielder Enzo Martinez scored the second, striker Jorge Herrera converted a penalty, and midfielder Alex Martinez assisted midfielder Abdouile Mansally’s fourth and final goal.
“Great pass from Alex, because I was right behind him, calling, ‘Alex,’” Mansally said. “Great ball from him—first touch, and then I see the goalkeeper—easy finish for me.”
Enzo Martinez played behind Herrera up top, which changes his role in the opposition’s box. The goal was his first for Charlotte since the 2017 season finale. He spent the 2018 season with the Colorado Rapids in MLS.
“Coaches have been telling me to shoot a bit more, to pull the trigger,” Enzo Martinez said. “You have to be a guy who gets more in the box in dangerous situations, instead of when we play with two forwards. My role is more to be a little bit deeper, and get the ball moving…I could hear the coaches in the back of my head saying, ‘pull the trigger.’”
The Martinez brothers, who are Northwestern High alumni, are well acquainted with the game’s evolution in the area.
“I love playing for this team,” Alex Martinez said. “I’ve been here since day one. Every time I step on the field, I try to do everything I can to play for the badge.”
Jeffries, who was hired by the Independence in 2014 as the team’s first coach, led the club to the USL playoffs in 2016 and 2017. Charlotte hired McGuinness in December 2018, shifting Jeffries to general manager. McGuinness did not produce results necessary to maintain his position.
“We’ve always taken pride in the Charlotte Independence and the identity, and sort of take pride around the league when people say, ‘that’s the Charlotte Independence way of playing,’” Jeffries said. “I do want to continue to have that identity in terms of how we play the game, and what we try to do. Tonight was a good first step.”
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