CARY, N.C. — On Wednesday night, the Charlotte Independence’s 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign came to and end in a 4-1 loss versus North Carolina FC (NCFC) at Sahlen’s Stadium.
The home side scored the breakthrough goal in the 17th minute when James Marcelin headed home a corner kick sent in from Lance Laing.
“The game started pretty level,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “We put ourselves behind the curve by giving away a goal on a set piece. Our organization wasn’t great and our marking wasn’t great to give away a free header off a corner and that left us chasing the game."
The Independence pressed for an equalizer before halftime and created several dangerous chances in the last 20 minutes of the first half. Independence forward, Enzo Martinez rattled off three shots between the 34th and 38th minutes, the last requiring a diving stop from NC FC goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre.
"We started to get into our rhythm for the most part in the first half but we didn’t create enough chances off of those plays," said Jeffries. "We weren’t quite good enough at the end of them.”
After the break, North Carolina FC doubled its lead when forward Nazmi Albadawi scored the first of his two goals on a tight angle from the right side of the goal in the 51st minute.
One of the Jacks’ best chances in the second half came in the 56th minute when Jun Marques Davidson collected a pass from Enzo Martinez on the edge of the 18-yard box. His curling effort just missed to the left of the far post. In the final half hour, Coach Jeffries subbed on David Spies, Casey Townsend and Yann Ekra to help boost the attack while leaving only two Independence defenders.
"At the end of the game, I probably pushed to chase the game a little earlier than I should have," said Jeffries. "You have to take some risks in a game 2-0 in a game you have to win.”
Albadawi added his second in the 82nd minute with a chip shot and less than a minute later, Connor Tobin made the tally 4-0 with a bending shot from the left side.The Independence ruined NCFC's clean sheet by converting an Alex Martinez penalty kick in extra time.
With the Independence’s Open Cup run ending, the team now turns their attention to USL play. This Sunday, the Jacks will host the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Eagle Field on the campus of Winthrop University. The Independence will move to their new home stadium at Sportsplex at Matthews on June 17th with a game and community festival that includes fireworks, food trucks, and live music. Tickets are now on sale.