Charlotte Pulls Off Another Stoppage Time Thriller Over Union Omaha
CHARLOTTE, NC – The Charlotte Independence defeated the defending USL League One champs, Union Omaha, in a stoppage time thriller tonight at American Legion Memorial Stadium.
The final score was 2-1 after two late goals by #9 Ivan Luquetta and #90 Khori Bennett. The Jacks are on the road next week to face South Georgia Tormenta FC on Saturday, May 7 at Optim Health System Field in Statesboro, GA. Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM. Fans can live stream the match for free on bahakelsports.com or watch over-the-air on antenna TV’s WCCB Channel 18.5.
“I’m very proud of the team for showing a lot of heart and character, especially, again, coming back from a goal down,” stated Charlotte Independence Head Coach, Mike Jeffries. “We’ve managed to keep ourselves in games and find ways to get an equalizer and get a result. I’m really proud of the guys. I think it was a hard night because Omaha is a very experienced team and we had a lot of issues, but I thought the guys kept composure and obviously kept the fight going and when we were down a goal, we managed to push really hard to get an equalizer.”
First half action set the stage. The Jacks made their first rally in the 16th minute of play after #16 Tomas Maya ran up the wing and into the attack. He played a cross to the back post where #2 Koa Santos was there to collect. He volleyed a ball into the head of #6 Omar Ciss who put it just over the crossbar.
Union Omaha matched the opportunity in the 22nd minute off a corner kick towards the back post which was headed once over to #4 Alex Touche whose attempted bicycle kick skimmed off the crossbar.
The score remained all square at halftime: Charlotte Independence 0 – Union Omaha 0.
After 20 minutes into the second half, Union Omaha was first to strike. It was #7 Noe Meza who took a right footed shot into the upper right corner of the net. Union Omaha took the lead by 1.
Another 20 minutes passed, and the Jacks began to press. #7 Miguel Ibarra found the ball at his feet in the 84th minute. He looked up and saw Luquetta 1v1 on the back post. His cross floated up and over the Union Omaha defender and onto the head of Luquetta who pushed it past the keeper for his first goal of the season.
“It felt good. It was a tough game. It wasn’t the scoreboard we wanted but I’m glad I was able to come in and help the team win,” stated Luquetta. “I think the three points today were important. It gives us confidence to be at the top of the table. The next four games are going to be tough, but I think we have to take it game by game, execute the plan according to what we want, how we want to play and I think we’ll get some good results.”
Four minutes of stoppage time was added to the match. It all started with a big defensive play from #19 Quinn McNeill who won the ball in midfield and led the Jacks on a counter attack. Luquetta pushed it wide to Santos. He crossed towards the back post and found Bennett who headed the ball down and just over the line for the game winner. The goal was also his first of the season.
“It was a tough game, we knew coming into this game that they’re defending champions, and it was going to be a battle,” stated Bennett. “So, we had that mindset from the get-go. So, we were all locked in from minute one to 90, or however long the game went, and the chance came to me. There were a few crosses that came in earlier in the game that didn’t connect, and all it takes is one as a striker. You stay patient, you keep working, one came to me and I took it.”
Charlotte Independence goalkeeper #90 Andrian Zendejas secured the win after a big save in the final seconds. After Union Omaha through numbers forward and chaos ensued in the box, it was Zendejas who made the final punch to safety and a huge win for the Jacks.
“We’re still coming together as a group and still working on being more fluid in terms of how we play on both sides of the ball,” stated Jeffries. “I think the character of the group has been really, really good. The competitiveness of the group has been really good. It’s a young group, and I think we’re learning how we want to play, learning each other and I think by getting the games at home, we’ve been able to do a little bit and in each game push a little bit better which is good to see.”
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: The Charlotte Independence travel to Statesboro, GA for their first away match of the season vs. South Georgia Tormenta FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM and fans can live stream the match for free on bahakelsports.com or watch over-the-air on antenna TV’s WCCB Channel 18.5.