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Eastern Conference Preview: Charlotte Independence

New day, new louisvillecoopers.com contributor! Welcome to Will Phillips and Part 3 of our 13 part Eastern Conference preview series!  Part I on Bethlehem Steel is here; Part 2 on the Charleston Battery is here. Take it away, Will:

The Basics

The Charlotte Independence were founded in 2014, taking the spot of the Charlotte Eagles, who have since moved down to the PDL. They’re affiliated with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, and play home games in a temporary soccer stadium with the homey-sounding name of Ramblewood Soccer Complex.

The Staff

The Independence are coached by 1983 Hermann Award Winner (think the Heisman but for soccer) Mike Jeffries. Jeffries played in the North American Soccer League and the Major Indoor Soccer League, as well as playing for the United States Men’s National Team three times in 1984 and 1985. Jeffries has been coaching since 1995, and with the Independence since 2014.

The Players

By far the biggest signing thus far for the Independence has been forward David Estrada. He comes with five years of MLS experience and will bolster their attack a great deal. Last year, Estrada notched 3 goals and 6 assists playing with Sacramento Republic FC and the Orange County Blues. He has also had success at the MLS level, being Seattle Sounders FC’s third-leading scorer in 2012.

Last Year

The Independence had a respectable campaign in 2015, finishing 10-8-10 and landing in 7th in the difficult Eastern Conference, one point out of playoff contention. They also split the regular season with LCFC, each team taking one game.

The Supporters

There are three groups listed under “Supporters Groups” on the Independence’s website, all fan-run independent groups. There’s Jack’s Militia (http://www.jacksmilitia.com/), The Queen City Supporters (http://qcsupporters.com/) and QC Royals (they don’t have a website – just a Facebook group with 52 members). It’s worth noting that these groups are basically all the exact same. They come to games and cheer and sing songs. Queen City Supporters and QC Royals are even more alike, with essentially the same name and the same color scheme.

My Take:

Charlotte will be improved this year. Taking what is mostly a shot in the dark, I think adding Estrada will make the team formidable on offense, and we’ll see them as a much improved opponent and a playoff team this season.