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Independence Bulks Up Backline, Offense

By James Thomas, 03/22/18, 7:30AM EDT

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The Independence sign a center back and center forward to the 2018 roster

Charlotte, N.C. — On Friday, the Charlotte Independence, a United Soccer League (USL) professional soccer team announced the signing of defender Henry Kalungi, and forward Éamon Zayed. Zayed’s signing is pending P-1 visa approval. Kalungi enters his fourth season with the Independence, previously appearing in 68 games with 5,538 minutes. Zayed comes to the Independence from Indy Eleven (USL) where he scored 26 goals over 59 games in two seasons.

Kalungi, 30, has not only established himself as a presence on the pitch, but also in his community. The Rock Hill, South Carolina resident coaches a youth team from Discoveries SC and has made multiple charity efforts through the Henry Kalungi Foundation in his hometown of Kampala, Uganda. Kalungi returns to the Independence as a key figure in the makeup of the roster.

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“Henry is so much a part of the history of our group and the successes we've had, so it's good to have him back,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “He clearly knows what is expected and has been a stalwart defender in the league for a number of years. It's a real positive addition bringing him back.”

This past Saturday, Independence defenders Donnie Smith and Bilal Duckett made up the center back pairing in the 4-1 Season Opening win vs Ottawa Fury FC. Defender Jungsoo Lee was out with an injury. Kalungi, who started 27 games for the Independence a season ago, will certainly factor into the defensive group in 2018.

“We don't have depth at the current moment, so having another guy that can play almost anywhere along the back line, it's a plus and necessary,” said Jeffries. “It's a long season and it does require the whole group to contribute and step up.”

In addition to depth along the backline, the Independence bolstered their scoring threat with 34-year-old, 6’2” forward Éamon Zayed. The Dublin, Ireland native provides an additional attacking presence in an already potent offense.

“Zayed gives us the opportunity to have different options up front,” said Jeffries. “Some of the strikers on the team have different qualities, so it does give us the ability to have some different looks and tweak the system a little bit more than what we've had in previous years. Clearly, it adds to the opportunities to play directly with two strikers, or at times have another guy coming off the bench who is a real threat to score goals.”

Akin to the 11 Independence teammates with international backgrounds, Zayed is a Libyan national with eight call-ups since 2011. A prolific striker with clubs such as Drogheda United Football Club (Ireland), Derry City Football Club (Ireland), Persepolis Football Club (Iran), and Sabah Football Association (Malaysia), Zayed now brings his scoring pedigree to the Independence.  

“Similar to [signing] Henry, it's important we have depth throughout the squad,” said Jeffries. “[Zayed] has an excellent goal-scoring record. He's a guy that is clever in and around the box.”

Charlotte Independence, a USL professional soccer team, is seeking a second-consecutive win this Saturday, March 24th at the Sportsplex at Matthews versus Toronto FC II. Kickoff is scheduled at 7:00pm ET. Single-game tickets are available. For details on the upcoming schedule and Season Memberships visit charlotteindependence.com or call 704-206-1515.

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