What do you know about the Charlotte Independence? If your knowledge stops at “Jorge Herrera has scored a ton of goals,” it’s your lucky day. I caught up with The Charlotte Post‘s Ashley Mahoney for some intel on Nashville SC’s next opponent.
1) At this point, just about everybody has become aware of Jorge Herrera with four goals through three games. Who are some of the other pieces around him that have helped him find success offensively, and are his stats more based on individual brilliance or being the guy who’s set up to put them in the back of the net?
Jorge Herrera’s success in the attacking third stems from his ability to create space for himself, as well as those around him. Whatever role he takes for the Independence, whether he starts or comes off the bench as he did for a majority of the 2016 season, he exemplifies the style of the club—possession oriented and patient. Charlotte has dynamic outside backs in Joel Johnson and Sam Vines, who have allowed the Jacks to capitalize on the counter in their first three matches. They combine well with Charlotte’s wingers—keep an eye on the combination of Johnson and midfielder Cordell Cato (who scored Charlotte’s first two goals). Yet the Jacks also play well out of the back, connecting with midfielders Kevan George and Yann Ekra through to the final third.
2) The defense hasn’t been quite as outstanding as the offense (maybe only because the offense has been so good thus far). Is it fair to say that unit is still coming together?
Three games into the season, that’s a fair assessment across the league.
3) Through three games, the team is atop the Eastern Conference standings. Is the expectation that they will stay there, or has the run to begin the year been a bit of a surprise (or a schedule strength-based early boost)?
The Jacks traditionally found their stride five-six games in. This is their best start in franchise history, the first time they have scored in a season opener since 2015, and the first time they’ve ever won a season opener. Typically they struggle against Canadian sides—regardless of the strength of said side.
4) What is the support like in the Charlotte community for the club? What is the long-term prognosis for their staying power after a couple failed MLS bids?
Charlotte’s initial nomadic existence (four locations in as many years) did not inspire dedication among Charlotteans. Now they have a home in the Sportsplex at Matthews—a suburb of Charlotte, approximately 25 minutes from center city. The Queen City has a sense of snobbery when it comes to its sports scene—if it’s not in Uptown, don’t expect people to sell tickets (Bank of America Stadium—Carolina Panthers, NFL, Spectrum Center—Charlotte Hornets, NBA and BB&T Ballpark—Charlotte Knights, the White Sox minor league affiliate, are all located in Uptown). However, Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners approved a $32 million capital project ordinance to renovate American Legion Memorial Stadium on March 20. Memorial has been the Jacks’ goal since they acquired the market’s USL franchise rights from the Charlotte Eagles in 2014. The site has been targeted by both USL and potential MLS ownership groups. Despite the 2017 MLS bid from MLS4CLT, the Independence are the ones set to play in Memorial in 2021. The team also moved their offices to Elizabeth (the neighborhood adjacent to Uptown where Memorial resides). Their new offices include a pub called Jack’s House, which is set to open within the next four-six weeks.
5) What do you project for the lineup Saturday? Any other specific predictions – including a final score?
Defenders: Johnson, Duckett, Smith (if he has recovered from his groin injury, Lee if he has not), Vines
Midfielders: Cato, George, Ekra, Martinez
Strikers: Calvert, Herrera