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Charlotte Independence (2-2) open home schedule against Tampa Bay
Rowdies are unbeaten in Atlantic Division at 5-0
 
Published Friday, June 4, 2021 7:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE
Charlotte Independence striker Dane Kelly (right) made his season debut last week in the Jacks' 2-1 loss to Miami.

The Charlotte Independence home opener has arrived.


The Jacks (2-2, six points, fifth in the Atlantic Division), who kicked off their 2021 campaign with a month of road games, host unbeaten Tampa Bay (5-0, 15 points) at the Sportsplex at Matthews June 5 at 7 p.m.


Charlotte is coming off a 2-1 loss at Miami despite midfielder Jake Areman’s first goal of the campaign. Head coach Mike Jeffries started Thomas de Villardi at left back in place of Christian Dean, who missed the match due to a red card (two yellows) in their previous match against Pittsburgh.


“We made key mistakes on big plays that cost us the result,” Jeffries said. “Anytime there are changes there is a little bit of difficulty with continuity, but I we have a good group who can manage all that fairly well. I have confidence in guys when it is their turn to come in. I do not think that was the issue, I just felt like we were not able to connect and play as well as we should have.”


Charlotte will have to improve in transition against Tampa Bay, whom they opened the season against with a 3-0 loss. They will also need to improve in possession, which Miami exploited.


“We lost possession at times too easily in the middle part of the field,” Jeffries said. “I did not feel like when we were got organized that Miami played through us. I did feel like when we gave possession away in bad areas or too quickly, we were caught in transition-type plays that Miami is very good at. They are super athletic and super pacey up front.”

Charlotte spent the first few days of training this week working on transition and staying more connected. Jeffries challenged players to stay more patient in possession rather than find themselves in a foot race.


“That is important, because Tampa is also pretty good in transition,” Jeffries said. “They are obviously very organized defensively and very solid defensively, but have the capability of getting out pretty quickly as well.”


Charlotte’s lineup against Miami also included veteran midfielder/striker Enzo Martinez, who missed minutes in May due to a sprained MCL. Martinez played 81 minutes against Miami before being replaced by striker Tresor Mbuyu.


Striker Dane Kelly made his 2021 debut, coming on for leading scorer Irvin Parra in the 63rd minute. Kelly, who led Charlotte last season with 11 goals, briefly signed with Bnei Sakhnin in Israel’s first division before re-signing with the Independence last month.


Midfielder/striker Valentin Sabella is fighting to make his way back into the Independence 18-man roster. He spent the last several months on loan with Cancun FC in Mexico’s Liga de Expansión MX.


“The first couple of weeks were maybe a little bit of a transition of being back here and getting used to how we play and do things,” Jeffries said. “Now he has come in and had a pretty solid couple of weeks and is in consideration for the 18 team. We have a pretty competitive group this year. It is a nice situation from the standpoint of having a bit of depth and having guys compete for spots and playing time.”

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