The Charlotte Independence open the 2017 season at Transamerica field on the campus of UNC Charlotte this Saturday, April 1st. They face their Southern Derby rivals, Charleston Battery with a 7:00 pm kickoff.
Charlotte was idle in the first week of USL play, but finished up their preseason schedule in a 2-2 draw with the Jacksonville Armada of the NASL last Saturday. Team captain, Bilal Duckett scored in the 34th minute, but Jacksonville equalized before the half. Forward, David Spies gave the Independence a one goal lead after being substitution on, but once again the Armada equalized before the conclusion of the game. The Independence finished the preseason with a 2-1-2 record.
Coming off a fifth-place finish in the USL Eastern Conference, the Independence return 14 players to the 2017 squad. Charlotte fielded the fourth-highest scoring offense last season, behind USL MVP Finalist Enzo Martinez. The Independence bolstered their offense by returning midfielders David Estrada, Yann Ekra, Alex Martinez, Jun Marques-Davidson, and Lewis Hilton. Through three preseason games, David Estrada recorded five assists. Charlotte also returns three regular starters on their back line in Henry Kalungi, Bilal Duckett, and Joel Johnson.
In 2016, Charleston and Charlotte spilt the three-game Southern Derby series with both teams getting four points. Charleston holds the advantage versus Charlotte with their all-time series record being 3-2-2. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Battery defeated the Independence 2-1.
"It's a big rivalry between us," said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. "Charleston poses everyone in the league a problem with their athleticism and their ability on counters and set pieces. The rivalry makes for a great atmosphere with the traveling fans, but our guys are just pumped with it being the opener."
The Battery enters the matchup with momentum coming off a 2-1 home victory against FC Cincinnati last Saturday. Justin Portillo assisted Forrest Lasso on a 38th-minute corner kick. Portillo later scored the game winner for the Charleston side in the 71st minute off his own rebounded penalty kick.
The Battery and Independence will face off three times in the 2017 campaign. The next match-up for the two teams will fall on Saturday, September 9th at MUSC Health Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina. The Southern Derby will conclude on Saturday, October 14th in Charlotte for the USL season finale.
Fans can tune into Saturday’s game by watching live on the Antenna TV Network (OTA 18.2, Spectrum Channel 1261) or via the USL Match Center. Kickoff is at 7:00 pm ET.
Single-game tickets for Saturday’s game at UNC Charlotte are on sale now. $15 general admission tickets will be sold at the gate and parking will be free for on-campus locations. For more information please visit www.charlotteindependence.com.