|Charlotte Independence aim to climb above .500 against Pittsburgh|
|Enzo Martinez expected to return to lineup|
|Published Monday, May 17, 2021 8:10 pm|
The Charlotte Independence head to Pittsburgh with confidence.
A 3-0 win at rival Charleston in USL Championship play put the Jacks at .500, gave them their first win of the 2021 campaign and their first goal of the season. Charlotte had a 2-0 lead within the first 20 minutes and midfielder Marcelo Palomino (on loan from MLS side Houston Dynamo) scored the first goal of his professional career, followed by a brace from striker Irvin Parra, who is in his first season with the club. Palomino’s goal and Parra’s first goal were scored off headers, followed by Parra’s penalty kick in the 49th minute.
“Getting an early goal was a huge plus confidence-wise, and really helped us in our buildup,” Independence coach Mike Jeffries said. “The second goal was a tremendous goal and we put together 13 passes. I think almost everybody on the field touched the ball, and then finish the good crossing good movement in the box and a good finish.
After a 3-0 loss in Tampa Bay to start the season, Charlotte improved against the Battery, with Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller earning a clean sheet.
“Brandon came up big when we needed it,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries stuck with a back three of left back Christian Dean, center back Hugh Roberts and right back Kevin Riascos.
“We worked on that throughout preseason, and continue to,” Jeffries said. “I want to be able to play both for the back, a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 that we have been using and I want to be able to move between it whether it is at the start of a game or during a game and be comfortable in either formation.”
Charlotte’s improvement in the final third came without veteran striker/midfielder Enzo Martinez, who has been out with a sprained MCL. Martinez’s availability was tentative for Charleston, but the club did not want to push it. He is expected to be ready for the May 22 match at Pittsburgh. Junior Etou impressed Jeffries controlling tempo in the center of the park.
“He was busy,” Jeffries said. “He got on the ball. He was effective at times in the final third and he won a lot of tackles. He probably got some six or seven, so he drew a lot of fouls, including some of the dangerous free kicks. He had a really, really solid game and did a lot for us in the middle of the field.”
Jeffries equated the differences between the 3-0 loss and 3-0 victory came down to players exceeding their standard of play.
“Some days you look back and feel like maybe in Tampa not enough guys were above their average level,” he said, “but I thought we had a lot of guys who played really solid games on this one.”
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