Charlotte (NC) — Currently on 99 league appearances, Charlotte Independence legend Jorge Herrera is set to become the club’s first player to reach the century mark this Saturday in a critical game versus Penn FC at the Sportsplex at Matthews. The Independence’s first-ever signing, Herrera has been with the club since the inaugural season in 2015, scored the club’s first hat-trick, scored the first goal at the Grand Opening of the Sportsplex at Matthews, and holds the franchise’s all-time scoring record.
“I feel very blessed to be a part of this organization since day one,” said Herrera. “I remember when I started and can't believe it has been such a long time.”
At 37-years-old, Herrera has appeared in all USL games this season for the Independence and his ten goals put him only one back in the chase for the 2018 Golden Boot. With 62 career regular season USL goals, Herrera is six goals back from breaking Dane Kelly’s all-time record.
“Jorge has clearly been the face of the franchise from day one and has been nothing but class for us,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “It is a great accomplishment for him and us. It says a lot about him and Jorge still comes out every day and works extremely hard.”
As a veteran of the club, Herrera has remained a consummate pro and the gold standard to younger players, like Independence rookie midfielder Jake Areman, who readily learn what it means to be a USL professional.
“He's always the first one to say good morning when you walk in and on the field he's always the guy that gets everyone going,” said Areman. “He can run all day, his pressure defensively is just incredible, and his soccer IQ is off the charts. He pushes everyone to another level."
Unable to pinpoint a single favorite memory over the time he has spent with the Independence, the Colombia-native recalls some of the highlights.
“There have been a lot of great memories,” said Herrera. “Our first game as a club, when I scored my first professional hat-trick against Saint Louis FC, and battling out wins against tough opponents.”
A longtime teammate of Herrera’s, Independence defender Henry Kalungi said he hopes the team can bank another memorable night for the veteran this Saturday in a critical home game for the Independence.
“Our motto here is that we are family so when someone is about to achieve a milestone like that it's special to all of us,” said Kalungi. “Jorge has earned and deserved everything that he has done so we are happy for him and we will be there to celebrate with him. Hopefully, we get the result to go along with his 100th appearance.”
With nearly 200 USL games played and over 6,000 minutes logged with the Independence, Herrera shows no signs of slowing down.
"I keep telling people that I am going to be playing as long as I can so I just want to keep it going,” said Herrera. “It has been a good ride with the Independence.”