CHARLOTTE, NC (Sept. 9, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence (13-7-6) on Saturday night return home to Ramblewood Stadium for their second and final meeting of the season with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (6-15-5). While Charlotte already has stamped its ticket to the postseason, the club is still fighting to secure a top four finish in order to host a first-round playoff match.
The Independence is 4-1-0 in its last five and 6-2-2 in its last 10, including last Sunday’s 5-1 win at Toronto FC II. Charlotte has the third-highest scoring offense in the Eastern Conference with 43 goals for, which also is good enough for fourth overall in the league. Thirteen of those 43 goals were scored in the last five games. Second-year star Enzo Martinez leads the offense with nine goals and four assists in 24 games played.
“Enzo is a playmaker for our club,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “He’s a guy that’s really very capable in the final third, whether on his own or from a pass or finishing from distance – he’s making plays that are the difference in the game. He’s been a key guy for us, he’s been a guy that since he’s been in the lineup he’s set up guys for goals and set up guys for chances as well as been able to take them himself.”
The Riverhounds, after a roller-coaster start to the season, have found their stride and are in the midst of their most productive streak this season. The club has won three of their last five matches (3-1-1) and is riding a three-match unbeaten streak (2-0-1) into Charlotte. Pittsburgh most recently upset Orlando City B 2-0 in Florida on Sept. 3. Chevaughn Walsh scored the opening goal and Corey Hertzog put the game away in the final minutes.
“They’ve got a very good attacking group of players and they can really cause trouble,” said Jeffries of the Riverhounds roster. “They’ve got a number of guys who are capable of making plays in front of goal, so I think that makes them difficult and makes them dangerous. It’s taken a little while, but the last three or four games they’ve actually played really well and gotten some results and build some confidence in what they’re doing and how they play.”
Hertzog leads the Riverhounds offense with 28 points and his 12 goals rank fifth among all USL players. Kevin Kerr (4g, 3a) and Romeo Parkes(5g) also have tallied double-digit points for Pittsburgh this season. Zach Steffen, on loan from Columbus Crew SC, has started the last five games in net, recording a 1.2 goals against average and .769 save percentage.
When these teams first met in Pittsburgh on July 23, the Independence came away with a 3-0 victory. Caleb Calvert stole the lead in the 30th minute when he slipped the ball in near post, and Lewis Hilton increased the lead to 2-0 in the waning minutes of the first half with a quick and powerful shot from outside the box. Neither team was able to find a good rhythm to start the second and it wasn’t until the last minute when Jorge Herrera came up with the third Independence goal.
Kickoff for the Charlotte-Pittsburgh rematch at Ramblewood Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, is scheduled for 7:00pm ET.