CHARLOTTE, NC (Sept. 29, 2016) — The fifth-seeded Charlotte Independence (14-8-8) are set to take on the fourth-seeded Rochester Rhinos (13-5-12) at 6:05pm on Saturday, Oct. 1, in the USL Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Rhinos will be pushing to defend their 2015 USL Championship, while the Independence will be making its first postseason appearance. The club in 2015 missed the playoffs by one point.
“The group is pretty loose,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “Guys are not relaxed but are confident going into the game and feel good about the way we’ve been playing throughout the year and at the end of the year as well.”
Charlotte finished the 2016 season – just its second in the USL – with the third-highest goal differential (+19) in the Eastern Conference and fourth overall in the league. The Independence’s balanced attack features five players with six or more goals, lead by Enzo Martinez and Brian Brown with nine apiece.
However, Charlotte failed to score against Rochester in each of its previous two meetings this season. The clubs battled to a 0-0 draw at Rhinos Stadium on May 14 and the Rhinos then earned a 1-0 victory in Charlotte just two weeks ago, on Sept. 17, off a 42nd minute Steevan Dos Santos penalty kick.
“Rochester is clearly a team that’s very organized defensively and focuses primarily on defending and stopping opponents and they’ve been very successful at it,” said Jeffries. “The games we’ve had with them have been very, very tight with limited chances and I expect that that’s going to be the case as we head into the game Saturday.”
The Rhinos defense had been aided greatly by the recent play of goalkeeper Tomas Gomez, who earned the 2016 USL Golden Glove Award for his league-low 0.69 goals against average. Rochester allowed the third-fewest goals (25) among all USL teams this season. They’ve also been tough to play at home, posting a 9-2-5 record at Rhinos Stadium in 2016.
“For us the focus is on both shutting them down and preventing some of the things they’re good at, but also being able to move the ball well enough that we can create some chances against them,” said Jeffries.
The winner of the Charlotte-Rochester quarterfinal will move on to the semifinals and face the winner of the New York Red Bulls II vs. Orlando City B quarterfinal. That #1 vs. #8 matchup is scheduled for 4:00pm ET on Sunday, Oct. 2. The higher seed will be granted home field advantage throughout the playoffs.