KEY STORYLINES / WHAT’s AT STAKE
Charlotte, in second full season of existence, will try to bolster their top-four position in the USL Eastern Conference with a home win as they’ve already clinched a playoff spot.
The Independence have been consistently good this season, and are on a hot streak, having won four of their last five contests, including a 5-1 win against Toronto FC II in their last outing.
In a 15-loss season, the Riverhounds have played better of late, with a run of the past three games without a loss.
Remarkably, the Hounds (23 points) are mathematically alive for a playoff berth as long as Orlando City B (32 points and winless in last five games) and some of the other teams in front of them keep struggling.
The Hounds will need a perfect storm of results involving the teams above them — but with each playing less than stellar soccer, anything might be possible. But bottom line, is that the Hounds are team with very little to lose and should be playing aggressively.
The Hounds newest signing, Chevaughn Walsh, scored in his first pro start and looked to be a dangerous presence at the top of the attack, along with forward Corey Hertzog, who leads the Hounds with 12 goals after picking up another late goal last Saturday at Orlando City B in Melbourne.
In the only meeting between the team earlier this year on July 23rd, Charlotte was dominant for much of the game, and won easily 3-0 at Highmark Stadium.
TACTICS & STRATEGIES
Expect Charlotte to go for the win from the early going. If the Hounds can weather the storm, and can match possession and work rate — this could be a competitive match as the Hounds have been showing some promise of late.
But the Hounds have reeled off three wins in the past five games against struggling teams — Wilmington, Orlando City and Bethlehem Steel FC.
The Independence are a definite step up in competition.
Uruguayan forward Enzo Martinez will have to be accounted for — as he’s been one of the most dynamic players in USL this season, with nine goals and four assists. He scored twice in the Independence’s 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati on August 31.
Veteran Columbian midfielder Jorge Herrera, who played previously with the Charlotte Eagles, continues to be a threat as he’s had an outstanding campaign with six goals and two assists. This is a solid defensive unit (only surrendered 27 goals this season) so the Riverhounds will have to bring their A-game to this one.
The Hounds Head Coach Dave Brandt mixed some things up in the last win vs OCB, particularly on the back line — moving Zak Boggs into a fullback spot and pairing Ryan Adeleye alongside Sergio Campbell for a bigger center back combination. Willie Hunt and Mike Green didn’t get the start, but both regular starters did play briefly at the end of the match.
The biggest changes to the midfield and attack included inserting Stephen Okai into a starting spot in central midfield — and Walsh at the top.
With the Hounds in mode to play with little to lose — and Charlotte pushing to get one of the top four spots to host a playoff game – this could be an open-ended affair that might be entertaining to watch.