CHARLOTTE – Charlotte Independence coach Mike Jeffries knew the two-game road stretch this week would be a critical one for his team after a challenging start to the season.
Forward Enzo Martinez rose to the occasion when his team needed him most. He scored two goals to help the Independence overcome a 1-0 deficit on its way to a 2-1 win over Saint Louis FC in a trip to the City of Blues on Saturday, April 22.
Martinez, who was a finalist for the United Soccer League’s MVP Award last season, earned USL Player of the Week award in recognition for his efforts and production in the galvanizing win for Charlotte.
It’s still early in the season, so standings don’t have much bearing. However, the Independence (1-1-2) jumped five spots in the standings, going from last to 10th in the Eastern Conference.
To provide a frame of reference for how the Independence stacks up against the rest of the conference, it’s only three-and-a-half games back from the Charleston Battery, which is atop the standings in the east.
Charlotte completes its road trip with a visit to Rochester (1-1-2) for a game against the Rhinos on Saturday, April 29. Another victory would do wonders for the Independence’s psyche as it seeks to build momentum and get above .500. This will be another winnable game.
For the Independence to emerge victorious, it must maintain its flow offensively. It has scored in each of its last three games after getting shut out by Charleston in its season opener. The defense has been there, but the offense must support it with quality production.
Martinez’s scoring outburst in Saint Louis was a positive sign, but it must be sustained for Charlotte to continue its progression.
It’s still a ways off, but the Independence is only 50 days away from the move to its new home. Charlotte still has two more games at Winthrop University’s Eagle Field (New York Red Bulls II, Thursday, May 11 and Tampa Bay Rowdies, Sunday, June 4) before it transitions to its new digs at the Sportsplex in Matthews.
The Harrisburg City Islanders will be the first opponent the Independence entertains in Matthews. The clash will take place Saturday, June 17, at 7 p.m.
Charlotte still has plenty of soccer left to play, and it seems the best has yet to come.