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Herrera’s Stoppage Time Penalty Kick Earns Charlotte Draw With Wilmington

Jorge Herrera.

CHARLOTTE, NC (Sept. 5, 2015) — It was a sloppy match at home for the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night, as the club found itself trailing the Wilmington Hammerheads 2-1 going into the 90th minute. But a stoppage time penalty kick by Jorge Herrera improved the Independence’s unbeaten streak to 11 matches.

“That was a hard and disappointing night,” Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries said. “I give a lot of credit to Wilmington. They came out and played with a good intensity and pushed the game at times in our place and we just weren’t quite sharp enough early on.”

Both clubs seemed to come out a little flat in the first half. Aaron Wheeler had a header bounce off target for Wilmington in the 12th minute, while Tomasz Zahorski and Daniel Jackson each curled their shots wide for the Independence.

The match turned chippy from there, as four yellow cards (two for each team) were distributed in the next 15 minutes. Charlotte scrounged a late opportunity in first half stoppage time, as Bilal Duckett got a piece of Paolo Del Piccolo’s corner kick. Unfortunately for the Independence, the ball pinged off the crossbar.

Charlotte made two key offensive substitutions at halftime, bringing on Ryan Finley for Zahorski and Herrera for Raphael Cox. However, it was Wilmington’s Sunny Jane that produced the first goal. John Berner got a hand on the ball, but it deflected up and dribbled into the back of the net.

It took more than 20 minutes for the Independence to find an equalizer. Enzo Martinez brought down a cross from Caleb Calvert in the box and tucked the ball into the left corner to keep the home side’s hope alive. But an individual effort from Qudus Lawal in the 82nd minute quickly shifted momentum back to the visitors as Wilmington went up 2-1.

Sensing urgency, the Independence picked up the pace of the game. Duckett had two chances in the 86th minute, but Hammerheads keeper Andre Rawls denied them both. Then, in the 90th minute, Finley found himself in perfect position for a header, but Rawls punched that one away too.

As the game moved into stoppage time, the Independence earned a free kick. Herrera sent the ball in and Wilmington was deemed to have brought down a Charlotte player in the box, earning the home side a penalty kick. Herrera also stepped up for the PK and lofted the ball over Rawls to end the game in a 2-2 draw.

“Credit to our guys for hanging in and coming back and finding a way back in on a night when we gave up two just very disappointing goals,” Jeffries said. “We found a way to get something out of it but it wasn’t our best. We can come up with lots of excuses but it wasn’t our best night.”

For Herrera, who had been sidelined with a calf injury, Saturday night was just his second match since July 11. The midfielder came on as a substitute in Charlotte’s 1-0 victory over Wilmington on Thursday night and had an assist on the game-winning goal.

“I think it’s important this last part of the season, games are going to get harder, we’ve got to be smart, we need to know that we’re playing for a playoff spot,” Herrera said. “We’re playing against teams that they don’t have anything to do at this point so those types of games are hard and we need to be smart to get the points to get in the final.”

With the draw, the Independence moved to 9-6-10 with 37 points to hold onto the sixth and final playoff spot in the East. Charlotte saw favorable results across the Eastern Conference on Saturday night, as the Richmond Kickers, Charleston Battery and Pittsburgh Riverhounds also all settled for draws.

The Independence will push to make it 12 unbeaten in a row on Wednesday, Sept. 9, as the club returns to Ramblewood Stadium for its 2015 home finale. Charlotte will face Toronto FC II for the second time this season, having earned a 2-2 draw in Toronto on Aug. 30. Kickoff is set for 7:00pm.


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