|Independence extend unbeaten streak under Jeffries to 3 matches|
|Jacks 2-0-1 after 1-0 win against Memphis|
|Published Saturday, June 29, 2019 10:20 pm|
|PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY|
|The Charlotte Independence extended their unbeaten streak under coach Mike Jeffries to 2-0-1 after a 1-0 win Saturday against Memphis.|
MATTHEWS—The Charlotte Independence are undefeated under Mike Jeffries in his second stint as head coach.
The Jacks are 2-0-1 since naming the general manager and inaugural head coach in franchise history as Jim McGuinness’ replacement on June 12. Saturday’s 1-0 win against Memphis marks their first clean sheet in that stretch and Charlotte’s outscored the opposition 6-2 during that span. The Independence have earned seven points in the last three games, the same amount claimed between Feb. 15 and May 18.
Against Memphis, Charlotte, which improved to 3-7-7 with 16 points, showed more of a Jeffriesesque style.
“We want to not only keep getting results and points, but we’re trying to push during the week to reestablish the identity of the Independence, and what we want to try to be about,” Jeffries said. “Trying to push my ideas, and the coaching staff’s ideas with the guys. The guys thus far have done a really good job of buying in and showing a lot of energy.”
Said defender Hugh Roberts: “We’ve been talking about it all week. Last week [was an] unfortunate result on their goal [in a 1-1 draw at Louisville]. We were hoping to get a shutout then, too. Just having a shutout defensively—we’ve been leaking in a good amount of goals every single game—it just boosts us with confidence. To be honest, we needed that.”
Striker Jorge Herrera scored the winner in the 74th minute off a ball from midfielder Enzo Martinez. Charlotte’s oldest player has been with the franchise since its inception, carrying the team on more than one occasion. With Jeffries back at the helm, it’s about hitting reset on their worst start to the season.
“We’re finding the way that we used to play,” Herrera said. “It’s good to see the way that the guys are putting together some good plays. We seem to be very solid in the back. It’s always good to become a team, not a bunch of individuals.”
Said Roberts: “It’s more so trusting in [ourselves] as players. We have a lot of very good quality players, but we just weren’t playing to our strengths. Trust in the sense that [McGuinness] didn’t want us to play out of the back because of the turnovers, which makes sense as well, but we just have quality. We don’t have a 6-foot-5 forward in Jorge who wants the ball to his head or to his chest. He’s smaller, and wants the ball to his feet. Just those small differences—instead of playing in behind, play into his feet. Little things like that, attacking guys are starting to jell a lot more now.”
Jeffries started Joel Johnson at right back, which he has anchored since joining the squad in 2016. Abdoulie Mansally started at left back in the absence of Andrew Gutman, who joined Celtic for their preseason tour in Austria and Switzerland. Gutman, the 2018 Hermann Trophy recipient, started 14 games for Charlotte, scoring three goals during his time with the Jacks.
“Abdoulie has been fantastic at left back, but also in the midfield,” Jeffries said. “He’s really played well. He’s a really upbeat guy, so he’s fun to work with in that regard, but he’s got a really good game mentality. He’s really engaged. He’s got some good ideas. He’s obviously a very athletic player, but he also brings a wealth of experience.”
Midfielder Valentin Sabella made his professional debut, coming on as a substitute for Dominic Oduro in the 69th minute. Charlotte signed him in June after seeing his performance for UPSL side Florida Soccer Soldiers, which knocked them out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in May.
“He looked dangerous when he got on the ball,” Jeffries said. “He certainly was effective, took his chance. He played with a tremendous amount of confidence, and a little bit of savvy. I was very impressed. He came in and showed absolutely no nerves, or no fear of the game, and managed it well. As much as we wouldn’t have seen it from the Open Cup, he worked hard defensively, and also intelligently.”
Charlotte, 12th in the USL Championship Eastern Conference, head to fourth-place North Carolina FC on July 4 looking to beat their intrastate rival for the first time since NCFC joined USL from NASL. Charlotte’s only win against NCFC was in the 2015 Open Cup.
“It’s a new season, and a new group of guys who haven’t been involved in the rivalry quite as long,” Jeffries said. “It’s a big game for us for all the reasons—it’s got a little extra spice, because it is NCFC, but it’s also an important game for us to try to push things along, and NCFC has been really strong this year.”
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