CHARLOTTE, NC (Aug. 12, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence (9-6-6) on Saturday evening return home to Ramblewood Stadium for their third and final meeting of the season with in-state rival the Wilmington Hammerheads (6-9-6).
With less than 10 matches remaining in the regular-season, the race for the 2016 USL Playoffs is on. The top eight teams from each conference qualify for the postseason. Charlotte currently sits in seventh place with 33 points, just five shy of the Charleston Battery in the fourth spot. Wilmington currently ranks 10th with 24 points, which is seven short of the eighth and final playoff position.
The Hammerheads got the best of the Independence in their most recent meeting at Ramblewood Stadium on July 9. In the 44th minute of play, Casey Townsend finished a cross from Qudus Lawal to give the Hammerheads a 1-0 lead. But in first-half stoppage time, Lewis Hiltonswooped through the Wilmington defense to tie the game 1-1. The Hammerheads regained the lead in the 65th minute as Austin Martz slipped an unassisted ball past Independence goalkeeper John Berner. Charlotte kept pressing and came close to equalizing several times but were unable to put one away. Wilmington got the 2-1 victory despite being outshot 22-8 by the Independence. Hammerheads goalkeeper Eric Atifinished with seven saves to Berner’s one.
That decision over Charlotte was the Hammerheads’ most recent victory. Wilmington returns to Charlotte having lost two-straight matches and four of their last five. The club mustered just four goals in that stretch, though all were scored by different players. Bruno Perone leads the Hammerheads with five goals this season, while Ashani Fairclough ranks second in points with four goals and one assist. Wilmington’s defense also has struggled in its last five matches. Since Ati’s brilliant performance against Charlotte, he has allowed 15 goals, which dropped his goals against average to 2.29 and save percentage to 63.6%.
The Independence, meanwhile, come home to Ramblewood Stadium riding a four-match unbeaten streak. The club earned road wins against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and FC Montreal before battling to draws at the Charleston Battery and Bethlehem Steel. Charlotte scored seven goals during its road trip, while allowing just three. Caleb Calvert and Enzo Martinez each scored twice, while also adding one assist each. Hilton in the same period scored one goal and assisted on two others.
Kickoff between Charlotte and Wilmington is scheduled for 7:00pm ET at Ramblewood Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 13.