Goals scored by #13 Chris Hegardt (35’), #56 Gabriel Obertan (40’, 54’), #11 Tresor Mbuyu (59’), #18 Illia Shevtsov (84’).
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (October 15, 2022) – The Charlotte Independence punched their ticket to a third consecutive postseason appearance, their first in USL League One, Saturday night at American Legion Memorial Stadium. The Jacks defeated in-state rival, North Carolina FC, scoring five goals on the night and securing the #6 seed. Charlotte will face South Georgia Tormenta FC in the quarterfinal match on Saturday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
“We showed up and played well,” Head Coach Mike Jeffries said. “I’m proud of the guys for coming out with good intensity and good concentration. The guys stepped up their game for sure. It’s nice to get a win, get in the playoffs and give ourselves a chance.”
Charlotte wasted no time creating chances in the final third. In the 3rd minute, #56 Gabriel Obertan played a one-two combination with #2 Koa Santos. Santos played the cross in towards the back post. #90 Khori Bennett got on the end of it with a header, but missed just wide.
The Jacks earned their first corner kick of the match in the 7th minute. They opted to play it short. A couple passes around the outside of the box led to a shot by #3 Hector Acosta who missed just wide.
#11 Tresor Mbuyu found himself on the counter attack in the 13th minute after a North Carolina corner kick was cleared out by #19 Quinn McNeill. In stride, he raced down the pitch. Around the 18 yard box, he took a touch to the right and hit the shot but missed wide hitting the side netting.
It was Obertan again with combination play to set up Hegardt for Charlotte’s first goal of the match in the 35th minute. Obertan himself took goal number two on the night after Mbuyu cut a pass back towards the top of the box. Obertan hit the strike through the legs of the NCFC defender and into the bottom left corner.
“We’re just so excited,” Hegardt said. “After last week we were very disappointed that we went to Greenville and lost. We have so much talent and so many good players in this locker room. We know that we’ve achieved our first goal of making the playoffs. We know we can go far, and this is just the first step.”
The Independence led at halftime by two goals.
Early in the second half, Charlotte goalkeeper #30 Adrian Zendejas came up with a huge save off the strike from North Carolina’s #10 Jaden Servania. However, in the 54th minute he let one get through. This time it was #9 Oalex Anderson whose shot skipped off the turf and under Zendejas for NCFC’s only goal of the night.
Obertan answered with his second goal of the night just seconds later. It started with a perfectly placed long ball from defender #5 Shalom Dutey. Obertan managed to stay onside, and one on one with the goalkeeper, put away the clinical finish.
“I think it was all about the spirit, the mindset today because we knew it was a win or go home situation,” Obertan said. “It was a team effort, it could’ve been 1-0, but it was 5-1, it didn’t matter. We just wanted to go through.”
Mbuyu got his name on the score sheet in the 59th minute from a corner kick taken by Hegardt. Bennett contested for the first 50/50 ball at the back post which fell straight to the feet of Mbuyu. He struck the half volley first-time and beat the NCFC goalkeeper near post.
A substitution calling in #18 Illia Shevtsov in the 83rd minute led the Jacks to their fifth and final goal of the night. Midfielder #6 Omar Ciss slotted a pass to Shevtsov inside the box. He made a couple moves to beat his defender with just enough space to rocket a shot into the upper right corner of the net.
With the three points, the Charlotte Independence secured the #6 seed and are heading on to the 2022 USL League One Playoffs presented by Hisense.
“The nice part about tonight is we’ve set a good standard,” Jeffries said. “We come in with confidence, we know what we’re capable of, and we know we can raise the level a little bit.”
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: The Charlotte Independence will face South Georgia Tormenta FC in the quarterfinal match on Saturday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m. (ET). The match will be streamed live on ESPN+.