CHARLOTTE, NC (July 22, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence (7-6-4) on Saturday night kick off a four-match road trip with their first meeting of the season against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2-11-4) at Highmark Stadium.
The Independence enter Pittsburgh on the heels of a two-match losing streak. It is the first time this season that the team has dropped back-to-back games. Both were home matches that ended in a score of 2-1 favoring the visitors, the first against the Wilmington Hammerheads on July 9 and the second versus New York Red Bulls II on July 16.
“Wilmington was that kind of game where we actually played very well between the 18s, then made some pretty basic mistakes on goals and just didn’t finish the way we should have finished,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “New York we weren’t very good at the beginning but we did work our way back in the game and in the second half really started well and pushed the game, got level and then the red card changes that. Even with the red card we did a decent job of creating some chances. We just have to be better in front of the goal. We have to finish some of the chances that we create.”
Saturday’s red card was presented to the Independence’s leading-scorer Brian Brown. He will have to serve a one-match suspension and will not travel with the team to Pittsburgh. Charlotte has several other capable scorers who can step up in Brown’s absence, such as Caleb Calvert,Enzo Martinez and Jorge Herrera. Lewis Hilton also has hit a stride for the Independence recently, recording points in three of his last four matches.
The Riverhounds have had tough luck lately as well, losing four of their last five matches and being shut out in two of those defeats. Pittsburgh is tied with FC Montreal for a league-low 15 goals scored. Romeo Parkes and Corey Hertzog lead the club with five goals each, while Kevin Kerr has two. The starting XI has been constantly evolving as the club hired a new head coach mid season and made several personnel movements over the last few weeks. Most recently the Riverhounds signed forward Alejandro Aguilar and released midfielder James Bissueand defender Karsten Smith.
“Pittsburgh is a team in a little bit of transition,” said Jeffries. “They changed coaches six or seven games ago and so they’re learning a new system, new way of doing things. They’ve brought in a fair number of new players to strengthen the roster, but then it takes a little bit of time to integrate them or for those guys to get up to speed. I feel like right now is sort of their time to start hitting stride in terms of having their group together, having the philosophy of the new staff in place, so they should be ready to compete.”
Jeffries feels confident in his club’s preparation over the last five days though. He focused on getting back to the basics that brought the group success early in the season – moving the ball and pushing the game from the get go.
“It’s important for us to start strongly and not allow them to kind of get the rhythm of the game or get an early goal,” said Jeffries. “We want to get a result. We feel like compared to a year ago on the road where we struggled really throughout the beginning part of (the season), that this year we’ve been pretty sold. We’ve been in every game, we’ve got a couple wins and a few ties. So it’s important that we continue having a strong road mentality, being really hard to play against on the road and finding a way to create and get the first goal.”
Kickoff between Charlotte and Pittsburgh is scheduled for 7:00pm ET on Saturday, July 23. The match will be available live at youtube.com/USL