CHARLOTTE, NC (July 28, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence (8-6-4) this weekend play their second consecutive road match, a 3:00pm ET contest with FC Montreal (2-15-1) on Saturday, July 30, at Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard.
While the Independence have had stretches of going unbeaten on the road, the club has never actually won back-to-back away matches. It is a milestone Charlotte is hoping to check off this Saturday against Montreal, following a 3-0 victory in Pittsburgh on July 23.
“We started the (Pittsburgh) game with real good intensity and energy,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “We did an excellent job of pressing them and making it difficult for them to play and get into any rhythm. That helped get us into the game, it helped us win balls in good areas and be able to create from there. It built our confidence as the game wore on. We were able to get the first goal and play from the lead and I think that’s a big plus.”
This stretch of games is crucial for the Independence, who sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. The top eight teams qualify for the postseason. Charlotte has 28 points, just three ahead of the eighth and ninth place teams, while also one point behind sixth-place Richmond (29) and six behind fifth-place Rochester (35).
“It’s never easy to get points on the road, it doesn’t matter who you play,” said Jeffries. “It’s important that we’re able to do that and we’re able to get results, find ways to win, find ways to battle through what’s going to be a very physically tiring stretch with travel. We’re at the part of the season now where obviously every game and every point does make a difference. It’s important that we’re able to get results in all sorts of circumstances and playing a young Montreal team is an opportunity, but it’s never easy, especially up there.”
Montreal is at the bottom of the standings with just seven points and a league worst -19 goal differential. Ballou Jean Yves Tabla and Anthony Jackson Hamel lead the club with three goals each, while Mastanabal Kacher and Alessandro Riggi have each tallied two. Montreal is coming off a 3-1 loss to the Rochester Rhinos on July 16. Their last win was a 3-2 decision at Harrisburg on June 21 and the last draw was 1-1 at Toronto on June 15.
“(Montreal is) very consistent in how they play,” said Jeffries. “It’s difficult sometimes because they have different guys playing now, so it’s not easy to prepare on that side of it. But they want to play out of their back, they want to move the ball. They have a good system, they have very good technical players and that causes problems for us.”
In three previous meetings with the Independence, Montreal has failed to score a single goal. The Jacks won 2-0 in Charlotte on July 24, 2015, and 1-0 in Montreal on Aug. 26, 2015. That win was the Independence’s first on the road in 2015. This season, Charlotte secured a 1-0 win over Montreal at Ramblewood Stadium on May 7. Enzo Martinez took a free kick that sailed right to the head of Caleb Calvert. The Colorado Rapids loanee knocked the ball past Montreal keeper Maxime Creapeau into the left side of the net.
Martinez and Calvert are tied for second on the Independence offense with 11 points each this season, while Jorge Herrera and Brian Brownlead with 12 points each. Midfielder Lewis Hilton also has found his stride over the last month, recording eight points (3g, 2a) over a five-game period. He most recently tallied one goal and one assist against the Riverhounds on July 30.
On the defensive side, goalkeeper John Berner is starting to look more comfortable in net. He recorded his second shutout of the season last weekend, an effort that required five saves. Berner’s goals against average has dropped to 1.25 and his save percentage has increased to 71.1%. Veteran defenders Bilal Duckett and Henry Kalungi have been a consistent presence in front of Berner over the last nine games.
While the record may not show it, Montreal is a challenging team for the Independence. Charlotte will need to click on both ends of the field like they did against Pittsburgh in order to earn another victory. Kickoff between Charlotte and Montreal is scheduled for 3:00pm ET. The match will be available live at youtube.com/USL