1) Sometimes It Takes Time
After being in preseason for less than a week, the Charlotte Independence took on Columbus Crew SC last Saturday, which was played to a 2-1 loss at Charleston Southern University. Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries emphasized last week that results of the game were not of high importance, but the game served as a mentality-setter versus a marquee opponent.
Mike Jeffries: "I think we had a good first step. We started a little slowly in the game. I did feel like our defending pressure got us into the game. We were able to get our legs going and put them under pressure and create a couple chances."
Bilal Duckett: "The guys on the team responded really well to the environment. You're always going to be disappointed with a result that doesn't wind up with you being on top, but the things that we worked on during the week last week showed up in the game. It exposed a few things that we have to work on, which is what preseason is about."
2) A Roster In Motion
With only 15 players under contract, the Independence regular season roster stands to look much different than it currently does. With 24 players in preseason currently, the nine or so trialist are doing what they can to earn a contract. Per the relationship with the MLS club Colorado Rapids, the Independence will gain somewhere in the neighborhood of three players on loan in the next couple of weeks. Past loaned players have included rookies drafted in the previous MLS SuperDraft and prospective players such as forward, Caleb Calvert.
Mike Jeffries: "There's always a conversation with Colorado every year. They're going to finish preseason with Colorado, which makes perfect sense. We'll have them in for plenty of time during [our] preseason. Not a problem."
3) Go On Then Rookie
Independence rookie and former Wingate University midfielder, Callum Ross made a big impression on the coaching staff in the preseason game against Columbus. Ross netted the only Charlotte goal of the game.
Callum Ross: "Like I've said before, goals aside, I'm much happier that I played alright and didn't make any big mistakes. I was more pleased that I'd done alright on the ball. Obviously, the goal at the end was nice, especially in my first game, so I was happy with it."
Mike Jeffries: "In the first game, it makes a big impression. I felt like Callum came in and did an excellent job in the second half. He was on the ball a fair amount. His passing decisions were very good. Not only does he get the goal off a good play, but [Callum] opened up the game in good spots."
4) First Impressions
The preseason match with Columbus provided a first glance at what the starting roster might look like at the beginning of the regular season. However, two positions that should have a close examination are left back and center forward. Second-year defender, Austin Yearwood and veteran forward, Jorge Herrera filled the respective starting positions last Saturday. Yearwood notched one start in that position last year and Jorge Herrera flourished a substitute’s role.
Austin Yearwood: "As a team, I think it was a little bit of a rough start in the first fifteen minutes. It took me a little while to get my feet underneath me and start to play, but it's a learning experience. It's the first time I've been through preseason, so I'm just looking to build and get better, so I'm ready to go at the start of the regular season."
Mike Jeffries: "This is a good stretch of games for Austin to get acclimated to playing left back. We love his mentality and athleticism, and now it's just a question to see if he can take the next step and push himself forward. "
5) Familiar Faces
With 14 signed players returning to the team from the 2016 season, continuity gives the squad a leg up on the preseason. Head Coach Jeffries noted each year since the inaugural season, coming into season has been met with less adversity and continuity serves as a major key.
Alex Martinez: "Not only is it that we have 14 returning players, but the fact that we have key returning players. We could have 15 players back who are not the key players and that could be a problem. But the ones that are back are the ones that are going to help us win the league this year."