We managed to only briefly mention Jorge Herrera, but it’s whatever. Photo courtesy Charlotte Independence.
I do not cover the Charlotte Independence on a day-to-day basis! Ashley Mahoney of the Charlotte Post, however, does (along with just about everything else in Charlotte – check out the incredible breadth of reporting on her Twitter account). I went to the source for some insight on Nashville SC’s next opponent.
For Club and Country: What were preseason expectations coming into the year? Is it fair to say that the Independence have underperformed them, or is their status at the bottom of the table more attributable to a tough early-season slate?
Ashley Mahoney: A new coaching staff and mostly new faces on a roster leave everything up in the air. However, speaking with club President Jim McPhilliamy, he had high expectations. When asked to compare this squad to that of their inaugural season in 2015, he said that the current group would wipe the floor with the latter. Yet the inaugural squad had three league wins after 10 games. This group is 1-6-3.
FCAC: One of the USL’s greats, Enzo Martinez, is back after spending 2018 with the Colorado Rapids; however, he’s yet to score. Is that a matter of other players carrying the load, or is his form somewhere between “concerning” and “bound to bounce back?”
AM: He leads the team with assists, but for a squad that fails to produce in the attacking third, that means little. His role at present consists of trying to pull the strings more than being the one putting the ball in the back of the net.
FCAC: It’s the defense that’s been the greater problem for the Independence (second-worst in the East in goals allowed). What has gone into the struggling on that side of the ball to date?
AM: Head coach Jim McGuinness started USL veteran Brandon Miller for the first five games. Miller conceded 11 goals with a rotating back four in front of him. McGuinness put 18 year-old Curtis Anderson in for his first professional start against Bethlehem, their only league win. The former Manchester City academy player has retained the job since, allowing nine goals in league play. Neither Miller nor Anderson have kept a clean sheet.
FCAC: Nashville SC fans are particularly interested in how near-miss loanee Andrew Gutman has worked out after arriving from Scotland’s Celtic. He’s played every USL minute so far, so has that time on the pitch been productive?
AM: Gutman has been the one bright spot in a Charlotte’s otherwise abysmal campaign. The 2018 MAC Hermann Trophy recipient came in fit and hungry, looking to prove that he belongs in Scotland, not in Charlotte. While his presence makes those around him better, one would be concerned that seeing extensive minutes with this squad will not help his development. Any personal growth in his game will have to come from his individual will to develop as an outside back. Playing in Charlotte is merely a prolonged fitness exercise for him.
FCAC: What will it take for Charlotte to break out of their slump?
AM: A sense of purpose, and someone stepping up to lead this team. Leadership will have to come from within the squad from someone like Jorge Herrera or perhaps Martinez, because McGuinness has not been able to reach players thus far.
FCAC: Any specific predictions for the game (including a final score)?
AM: Charlotte will lose 2-1.
Many thanks again to Ashley for her insight on the Independence. Check out her work on The Charlotte Post.