CHARLOTTE, NC (Sept. 2, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence (12-7-6) are back on the road this weekend, traveling north to Canada to face Toronto FC II (6-16-5) for the second and final time this season. The Independence on Wednesday night clinched their first USL playoff berth with a 3-2 home victory over FC Cincinnati, but will be looking to improve their rank to potentially host a first-round playoff match. Charlotte is currently just one point outside of the top four, so securing a result in Toronto will be crucial.
These teams first met in Charlotte on June 4. Toronto jumped out to a 2-0 halftime lead off goals by Shaan Mundal and Malik Johnson. Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries made three substitutions to start the second half, and the changes worked. In the 47th minute Jorge Herrera cut the lead to one and in the 56th minute scored his second goal of the night to bring the game to a 2-2 draw. In the 73rd minute, lightning was spotted in the area followed by heavy rain. The game was delayed 90 minutes before officials had to make the decision to call it.
Since that first meeting, the Independence has gone 7-4-3 while TFCII has gone 4-9-2. Charlotte has the third-highest scoring offense in the Eastern Conference with 38 goals in 25 games. Enzo Martinez leads the Jacks with nine goals and four assists, followed by Brian Brown with seven goals and five assists.
The Independence lineup will look a bit different on Sunday afternoon though, as multiple players are unavailable for a variety of reasons. Martinez and defender Bilal Duckett will not be traveling due to suspensions for yellow card accumulation. Defender Joel Johnson will be on international duty with the Liberian National Team for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier and veteran Henry Kalungi is recovery from an injury sustained against the Charleston Battery on Aug. 27. Availability of the Colorado Rapids loanees also is in question, as some additional players may be recalled as fill-ins for international MLS players participating in qualifying matches over the weekend.
Toronto will look to take advantage of the lineup changes for Charlotte and bounce back from a four-match losing streak. The club most recently fell 4-3 to rival FC Montreal on Aug. 28, though new signee Ricardo John did record two goals in the defeat. That game also featured Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who is working his way back from a quad injury. It is likely Irwin will get another start against Charlotte on Sunday.
While the goalkeeper position has been under a bit of a rotation this season, the TFCII offense is lead by Raheem Edwards with six goals and three assists, followed by Mundal with five goals and one assist, and Johnson with four goals. On the defensive side, Toronto will be without Mitch Taintor due to a red card suspension along with midfielder Bubacarr Jobe.
Kickoff between Charlotte and Toronto is scheduled for 4:00pm ET at Ontario Soccer Centre on Sunday, Sept. 4. The match will be available live at youtube.com/USL. The Independence will return home to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, Sept. 10.