|Independence's Valentin Sabella ready to take next step forward|
|Midfielder scored goals in truncated season|
|Published Thursday, November 19, 2020 6:12 pm|
|PHOTO | U.S. SOCCER|
|Charlotte Independence midfielder Valentin Sabella took a step forward in his development in 2020 with a pair of goals in his first full season with the USL Championship team.|
Check his Instagram on any given day and you will see the Charlotte Independence midfielder putting in offseason work back in Miami. He rose from the UPSL to the USL Championship in 2019, impressing the Independence staff after the Florida Soccer Soldiers knocked the Jacks out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the second round. Sabella was 19 when he signed his first professional contract, which the Independence have taken the option on during the offseason.
“Next year is an important year for him,” coach Mike Jeffries said.
Sabella scored two goals during the condensed regular season. The second came in the regular season finale at rival North Carolina FC late in stoppage time to put the Jacks ahead. The left-footed attacking player found the back of the net off his right foot outside the box to clinch Charlotte’s first home playoff match in club history and first place in Group G at 8-4-4 for 28 points.
While the fairytale ended quickly in the playoffs with a 2-1 overtime loss to Charleston, Sabella’s season was a bright one. Jeffries utilized him more as a midfielder than at forward, crediting how much the young player bought into what was asked of him and how much he worked on his right foot during quarantine and the shortened season.
“He dealt with the change in position and what was being asked of him really well,” Jeffries said.
With the addition of Charlotte FC to the Charlotte soccer landscape, the possibility of players moving up the ranks locally is up for discussion. While the USL attracts players who are in the twilight of their career, youngsters like Sabella have a unique opportunity to develop and get onto MLS sides’ radar before the expansion team kicks off in 2022.
“He can definitely push himself to the next level,” Jeffries said.
In addition to taking the option on Sabella, two Independence players have multi-year contracts: goalkeeper Brandon Miller’s deal keeps him here through 2021 and striker/midfielder Enzo Martinez’s contract runs through 2022.
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