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Charlotte, Orlando Clash Amid Tight Playoff Race

By ciadmin, 08/16/16, 7:15PM EDT

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CHARLOTTE, NC (Aug. 16, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence face a quick-turnaround following Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads and will host expansion club Orlando City B at Ramblewood Stadium on Wednesday night. It will be the third and final match between the two clubs this season, unless they should meet in the playoffs. Orlando got the best of Charlotte in the first two meetings, both of which were played in Florida.

On May 28, the Independence jumped out to a 1-0 lead off the foot of Brian Brown, but the Lions roared back in the second half. Pierre Da Silva slipped a shot past John Berner in the 53rd minute and then took a free kick that found the head of Craig Nitti in the 71st minute. Nitti was able to redirect the ball just enough to send it past Berner for the 2-1 come-from-behind victory. The Independence also built a 1-0 lead in the rematch on July 2, as Brown once again found the back of the net in the 24th minute. But Michael Cox equalized for Orlando two minutes into the second half and the game would end in a 1-1 draw.

Cox leads the Lions with nine goals and two assists in 20 games played. He is followed by Hadji Barry and Tyler Turner with four goals each, and Da Silva and Bryan Rochez with two goals each. Orlando has seen a total of 14 different goal scorers this season. The Lions are hovering in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings. With 31 points currently, they are five ahead of Bethlehem in the ninth spot, and four behind Rochester in the seventh spot.

OCB will enter Charlotte on the heels of a 5-1 loss to top ranked New York Red Bulls II. It was the club’s first loss in two months and ended a nine-match unbeaten run. The Independence are on a five-match unbeaten run of their own, dating back to a 2-1 defeat by NYRBII on July 16. Berner and the defense have shined during the streak, recording three shutouts and allowing just three goals. Charlotte’s back line of Bilal DuckettHenry KalungiPatrick Slogic and Joel Johnson has been one of the most consistent units in USL this season.

On the offensive side, the Independence has four players with double-digit points this season. Enzo Martinez leads the way with 16 points (6g, 4a), while Brown (5g, 4a) and Caleb Calvert (6g, 2a) are tied for second at 14 points and Jorge Herrera third with 12 (5g, 2a). Not far behind is Lewis Hilton with eight points (3g, 2a). The group during its unbeaten streak has outscored opponents 8-3.

The Independence on Wednesday will look to avenge its earlier results against Orlando and continue to move up the Eastern Conference table, while the Lions will be looking to bounce back from last week’s loss and create further separation from the ninth and 10th place teams in the East. Kickoff between Charlotte and Orlando is scheduled for 7:00pm at Ramblewood Stadium.