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Independence Defeat Eagles to Advance

Jorge Herrera.

CHARLOTTE, NC (May 18, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence on Saturday night beat the PDL Charlotte Eagles 2-0 in the second round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament at Charlotte Christian School. The Independence took the lead 1-0 in the final minute before halftime on a Christopher Hellmann goal, then doubled the score off a Jorge Herrera rebound in the 50th minute.

“I have a lot of respect for the Eagles organization and I think Dave (Dixon) has put together a really good group,” said Independence Head CoachMike Jeffries. “I was very impressed and at times they pushed the game pretty hard against us, obviously at the beginning, so I thought he had them ready to play.”

It took some time for the new Independence group to settle into the game, despite early looks from Joel Johnson and Emmanuel Appiah. Forward Tresor Mbuyu had the Eagles’ best opportunity in the 22nd minute. Santi Moar beat Independence defender Austin Yearwood and passed the ball back to Mbuyu. The forward fired it on net and Independence goalkeeper John Berner had to make a diving stop right on the goal line.

“We had a pretty good game plan but it’s a pretty new group we put together for this game so I just think it took a while to get things going,” said Hellmann. “I thought after maybe the first 15-20 minutes of the game we got ahold of the game and I thought we held on pretty well at the end, especially second half to hang on and not give them too many chances.”

While both teams continued to pressure, the Independence were first to capitalize. In the 44th minute, Caleb Calvert headed the ball at Eagles goalkeeper Will Pyle, who was able to knock down the initial shot, but the defense failed to clear. Hellmann was ready at the line and buried the rebound shot to give the Independence a 1-0 lead going into halftime.

“I do feel like at the beginning of the game we were very stretched,” said Jeffries. “We were a little too easy to play against, we were not quite as quick and sharp in our movement with the ball.”

Momentum remained with the Independence as the second half kicked off. Jack Metcalf sent a cross into the box for Calvert just five minutes in. Pyle once again was unable to hang onto the ball after deflecting Calvert’s shot and Herrera stepped up and knocked the loose ball into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead. Norberto Ochoa had an opportunity to make it 3-0 moments later but his shot sailed over the cross bar.

“I think there were plays in the first half where we struggled a little bit, especially with their counter attack, but Alec (Bartlett) and Austin held up and managed the game pretty well at the end,” said Jeffries. “I thought the second half they were both very, very solid.”

Following the second goal the Independence did their best to slow down the pace of the game and manage possession. The Eagles really started to press in the final 10 minutes, but the Independence defense stayed strong and prevented any real threats on goal. The Independence had one final opportunity in the 89th minute, but it was a point blank save for Pyle.

The Independence will next travel to Cary, NC, on June 1 to face the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup tournament, setting up a rematch of 2015 third-round opponents. Last season the Independence beat the RailHawks 1-0 at Wake Med Soccer Park. The Independence return to league play on Saturday, May 21, with a home match against FC Cincinnati. Kickoff is set for 7:00pm at Ramblewood Stadium.

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