After signing his first MLS contract, goal keeper Cody Mizell returned to training with the Colorado Rapids on Friday. Independence Head Coach expects Mizell will not start Saturday's preseason game, but plans on the goal keeper getting some playing time at some point in the game.
"We're loving having him back," said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. "I think it's been good for him to train with the first team and learn from [Coach Chris] Sharpe. It's been a good way from him to come into our preseason and stay sharp."
The Independence still look to build up their fitness as they work toward the April 1st regular season opener. Coach Jeffries said last week that the focus is to get players familiar with the system of play, but has toyed with player-positions outside of the expected such as midfielder, Yann Ekra in an attacking role versus UNC Chapel Hill last weekend.
"We're still using preseason to look at different things and guys in different places," said Jeffries. "That part hasn't changed and it one of our major focuses. The second part is to get guys fit and ready for the season. Three; this is a good game to establish how was want to play and what guy's roles are in different spots. We want to start establishing a rhythm for the rest of the season."
The Independence and North Carolina FC have squared off in all three preseasons of Charlotte's existence. However, the last time the in-state rivals faced one another, there was a match with an MLS side on the line. The Independence traveled to Cary last summer as a part of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and trip resulted in a 5-0 overtime loss for the away side. Saturday's game will have much less at stake.
"Last time it was the Open Cup and there's so much riding on the game," said Jeffries. "All the preseason games the past three years have been quality games, but the level is light years different from what it's like in the Open Cup."
During Friday morning training, starting midfielder, Jun Marques-Davidson sat out the majority of practice due to an unknown ailment to his leg. Head Coach Jeffries previously stated that an over-arching goal of preseason was to keep the veteran players health as they ramp up to the regular season and that not all players would be expected to have the same daily regimen.
"He felt good when he came in and he started training and felt a little bit sore, so it's more precautionary at this point," said Jeffries.
In addition to goal keeper Cody Mizell, two players from the Colorado Rapids -- forward, Jaime Siaj and defender, Dennis Castillo -- joined the Independence team in training on Friday. Neither player is officially on the Charlotte roster.