|Charleston beats Charlotte Independence in first round match|
|Jacks fall to 0-3 all time in playoffs|
|Published Sunday, October 11, 2020 2:00 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Charlotte Independence players Dane Kelly (9) and Hugh Roberts (3) contest the Charleston Battery for the ball in the USL Championship first round game Saturday at the Sportsplex at Matthews. Charleston won 2-1, dropping Charlotte to 0-3 all time in postseason play.|
Charlotte is 0-3 in the USL Championship playoffs after their 2-1 overtime loss to Charleston Battery in the first round, which is “really frustrating,” Independence coach Mike Jeffries said.
“I don’t know that this was a game where I could have asked for any more from the guys. We feel a little bit hard done by on our own that we made the mistakes and that we couldn’t finish our chances. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get the breaks that we needed. We have had some playoff games where we were second best, this was not one of them. We competed well, it was a hard game, and in the end we weren’t able to do it.”
The first playoff game the Jacks hosted was likely the last one they will play at the Sportsplex at Matthews, which they have called home since 2017, as they are moving to the newly renovated American Legion Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth—a move six years in the making.
“It was a tough one,” defender Hugh Roberts said. “You hate to go out like that, especially at home. We worked hard to get this first home game. The goal we scored really spoke to us and the pressure we inserted on them once they scored. We were pressing them like crazy, we deserved that goal, maybe even multiple goals. It sucks to say that today wasn’t our day but we live and we learn.”
Charlotte’s comeback from an abysmal 2019 campaign almost made it look like the 2020 side had enough magic to make history and finally advance to the second round (their previous playoff appearances included consecutive stops in Rochester in 2016 and 2017). The Independence entered the 2020 playoffs with the upper hand as winners of Group G with an 8-4-4 regular season record.
They boasted an impressive regular season campaign despite the COVID-19 pandemic condensing the regular season to 16 games. On paper, they had the game set on both sides of the ball with goalkeeper Brandon Miller leading the league with 61 saves and a contender for USL Championship player of the month, as well as with all-time leading goal scorer Dane Kelly setting the tone with a team high 11 goals. However, they came out flat against Charleston, falling behind early when forward Nicque
Daley put the visitors ahead in the third minute. Aside from their early mistake, Charlotte pressed and created chances during the remaining minutes of the first half. Roberts drew the sides level off midfielder’s Jake Areman’s set piece in the 64th minute. It ended 1-all at the end of regulation, sending the match into overtime. Then Charleston forward Arthur Bosua scored a header in the 101st minute, making it 2-1. His goal would be enough for Charleston to wait out the remaining minutes of extra time.
“I’m still trying to get my first playoff win in seven years,” Roberts said. “Honestly, it really comes down to the little things. How strong the team is, how much chemistry we have. We had great chemistry and unity here. Regardless, we are a good, veteran team and we will be all right.”
Charlotte is 2-9-6 against Charleston all time, with their wins coming in 2015 and 2016. Charleston advances to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who beat Birmingham 4-2.
“We dug ourselves a hole, just losing discipline and we had to fight an uphill battle the whole game,” Jeffries said. “I thought we managed it and created some quality chances. It was nice to get the tying goal on a set piece. I thought we actually had some very good looks to go ahead in regulation. They pushed a little bit at the end of the game but then we really settled into the game in extra time. The game looked like it was headed to penalties, I didn’t think there were a ton of great chances either way.
“The final goal is a heartbreak goal. It’s really difficult to swallow and it’s one of those plays where we wish we had it back. Just one of those plays that didn’t go our way. We did a good job right after their second goal to keep pushing, Dane had a great look and then we created another couple of good half-chances. We just couldn’t get it done.”
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