Goals scored by Own Goal (38’), #90 Khori Bennett (43’, 55’)
FRESNO, C.A. (September 17, 2022) – The Charlotte Independence earned a big three points on the road Saturday night vs. Central Valley Fuego FC at Fresno State Soccer Stadium in Fresno, C.A. Notable performances on the night came from #90 Khori Bennett up top and #30 Adrian Zendejas in net. Your Jacks return home to American Legion Memorial Stadium next Saturday, September 24 to host the visiting North Carolina FC. It’s Latin Heritage Night presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and first kick is set for 7:00 p.m.
“We were very opportunistic and we took our chances and our goals well,” Head Coach, Mike Jeffries said. “It was nice to get a set-piece goal early, and I thought we did well defending and getting a couple good counters. I thought it was a gritty fight against a team who fought really well that didn’t get a result.”
Charlotte Independence goalkeeper, Zendejas, recorded six saves in the first half to deny the Central Valley attack and keep the Jacks in the match. First was a disrupted break away, then two quick reaction saves, punching away a shot from distance and collecting a strike from inside the box.
Confidence in the back allowed the Independence to push forward and create more opportunities in the final third. Their first look at goal came in the 4th minute. Several quick passes around the box led to a cross from the right side into #17 Clay DImick at the PK spot. His shot was deflected out to #11 Tresor Mbuyu who slotted a strike into the net, but was called back as offside from the referee.
The Jacks really found their footing in the 36th minute. #13 Chris Hegardt, on the dribble, drew a foul at the top of the box. He took the free kick which deflected off the wall and out of play for a corner kick. The Jacks opted for a short corner to #56 Gabriel Obertan who took a few touches to face goal and sent in a cross that skipped off the head of a Fuego defender and into goal. The own goal gave Charlotte the lead by one.
Obertan again was the playmaker in the 43rd minute after winning possession back on defense. He looked up early and found #90 Khori Bennett one on one with the final Fuego defender. Bennett used his pace to drive down the pitch, cut past the goalkeeper and chip the ball into the net for his tenth goal of the season.
Halftime: Central Valley Fuego FC 0 – Charlotte Independence 2
There was more to come from Bennett in the second half. In the 55th minute, he received a long ball behind the Fuego back line. Bennett took a touch to settle, a few more touches to set up the shot and a finish into the lower left corner gave him his 11th goal of the season.
“I’m really happy about the two goals tonight and even more happy about the team’s performance,” Bennett said. “We all knew the importance of this game, and we went out and got the job done as a team.”
Bennett scored five goals against Fuego FC this season, three of which came from a hat trick when the Jacks hosted at American Legion Memorial Stadium in July.
Fuego pushed the game with high pressure in the second half, and a number of opportunities, but the Independence back line held strong with help from Zendejas who was unstoppable in net. The goalkeeper on loan from Charlotte FC made six additional saves in the second half and secured his sixth clean sheet with the Jacks this season.
“I just want to start off with how proud I am of the boys tonight,” Zendejas said. “To have a performance like that in a tough place is going to give us momentum to secure a playoff spot. Happy with the clean sheet, but again shoutout to all the guys to the coaching staff, medical staff, and our kitman.”
With 3 points on the night, the Charlotte Independence closed the gap in the USL League One Standings and sit just one point out of 4th place with four matches remaining on the season.
“We’re at the end of the season and hopefully we can continue to play with confidence and continue to push and get results,” Jeffries said.
Final from Fresno: Central Valley Fuego FC 0 – Charlotte Independence 3.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: The Charlotte Independence are back at home next Saturday, September 24 to host the visiting North Carolina FC. It’s Latin Heritage Night presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and first kick is set for 7:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at charlotteindependence.com/uslleagueoneschedule/.