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Independence await packed USL Championship schedule
Midweek matches put premium on fitness
 
Published Monday, August 3, 2020 6:29 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY
The Charlotte Independence, who've played one match since the USL Championship resumed July 11, will play several midweek games in August as part of a condensed schedule.

Returning to play has not been easy for the Charlotte Independence.

The club sits 1-0-1, third in Group G with four points, one match into the USL Championship’s return to play on July 11. The Independence were scheduled to see action on July 22 in Miami, but the match was postponed to Aug. 23 due to COVID-19 concerns in Florida. Charlotte’s home debut was set for July 29 against North Carolina Football Club, but coronavirus precautions pushed the match to Aug. 26 at the Sportsplex at Matthews.

Charlotte’s only action, a 2-all draw at Memphis, took place on July 25. They play at Birmingham on Aug. 5. Their home opener – the first game at the Sportsplex in 294 days – is scheduled for Aug. 8 against Charleston but fans will not be permitted. They also aren’t permitted for the Aug. 12 match against Birmingham.

“It’s been very difficult for us,” coach Mike Jeffries said. “First, you get the normal COVID-19 issues of not having played for four months that every team went through, and then not being as sharp or as fit as we’d like. I think we saw some of that in our game with Memphis. We weren’t quite cohesive. We weren’t quite fit enough. We never found a good rhythm, which is where you would expect that we would be at this point in the year in a normal year. We’re fighting a little bit in that we’ve had a tough time with scheduling, just because of different venue issues. We’ve only played the one game, and a lot of the teams we’re playing now have played three, four games, and have a little bit better rhythm and a little bit more fitness that comes from playing matches.”

Said defender Hugh Roberts: “It was definitely an eye-opener for us…tying the [Memphis] game in the last minute speaks to our mentality here that we’ve been installing since day one. We fight. We never give up no matter what.”

Pending the postponement of any other games, Charlotte will play six mid-week matches during the rest of the condensed regular season. They have 14 games remaining overall.

“We’re going to get to a stretch where now we end up with four games in essentially 10-11 days, and establish some match fitness,” Jeffries said. “Most important is that we continue to use the time now to be a little bit better, a little bit sharper. We’ll get a little bit of fitness in, and then it’s going to be contributions from everybody when it gets to that stretch of a lot of games and a little time. Managing health and fitness with guys throughout that stretch is going to be really important.”

Independence midfielder Kevan George, a staple in the midfield since 2018, opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Kevan has been an important part of our team,” Jeffries said. “We respect his decision. It’s a personal decision, based on his and his family’s situation. As with anybody in that kind of situation, respect the decision, wish him well, and hopefully he stays healthy.”

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