Game Recaps presented by Wells Fargo
CHARLOTTE, NC (July 9, 2016) – The Charlotte Independence on Saturday night fell 2-1 to the visiting Wilmington Hammerheads at Ramblewood Stadium. It marked the first victory for Wilmington over Charlotte since the Independence joined USL in 2015.
The Independence started off the game with several free kicks and crosses that were served into the box, but were unable to convert any of those chances into a lead. After 30 minutes of play, the Hammerheads created a dangerous chance where Independence goalkeeper John Berner was unable to get his hands on a cross that came in. Wilmington’s Casey Townsend placed the ball in the back of the net only to be called offsides.
Townsend found his redemption in the 44th minute, finishing a cross from Qudus Lawal to give the Hammerheads a 1-0 lead. But the Independence took full advantage of the final minute of play, as Lewis Hilton swooped in to score his second goal in three games and tie the match 1-1 just before halftime.
“Obviously it was a big game for both teams in the league standings,” said Hilton. “Both teams needed to get three points and I think the intensity was quite high and it was quite a physical game. Both teams tried to press each other and I think that’s what made it a little scrappy and made it probably a little difficult to try to play the free flowing game that we like to play.”
Berner opened the second half with a big save in which he had to come off his line and make a stop with his foot to preserve the 1-1 score. The play earned him Wells Fargo Save of the Game honors. Shortly after, Brian Brown took an incredible shot that just barely was tipped away by Hammerheads keeper Eric Ati, and had another quick shot that pulled wide minutes later.
The Hammerheads regained the lead in the 65th minute as Austin Martz slipped an unassisted ball past Berner. While the Independence kept pressing and came close to equalizing several times, they were unable to put one away. The Hammmerheads came away with a 2-1 victory despite being outshot 22-8 by the Independence. Ati finished with seven saves to Berner’s one.
“Tonight was beyond frustrating because the amount of 100% sitters that we missed is shocking,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “You can’t miss the chances we missed, one-on-one tap ins, second balls from four yards. Ati also had some very good saves, credit to him, but you’ve got to finish those and we got punished for it. The story of our season is we’ve been able to push games but we still make one or two lapses in the back and they cost us. Tonight was no different. Tonight I feel like we put ourselves in the right spot more so than other nights. We made decent runs and got ourselves chances, so that parts pretty good it’s just executing.”
The Independence (7-5-4) face a quick turnaround and are back at Ramblewood Stadium on Wednesday, July 13, for an exhibition match against Swansea City of the Premier League. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for 7:30pm ET. Charlotte will then remain at home and return to league play on Saturday, July 16, with a rematch against New York Red Bulls II (9-1-5). Kickoff with NYRBII is scheduled for 7:00pm at Ramblewood Stadium.
— Compiled by Vanessa Quinones, Charlotte Independence