In a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between the Eastern Conference’s best, the Charlotte Independence (11-3-6) defeated Louisville City FC (10-4-5) 3-1 at Sportsplex at Matthews.
A hat trick by Enzo Martinez gave Charlotte all three points to extend their unbeaten run to 11 games and 1st place in the Eastern Conference for the first time ever.
Charlotte got off to a quick start taking the lead in the 11th minute. Jun Marques Davidson played Enzo Martinez into space and Martinez fired a low shot past Louisville goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski for his 10th goal of the season.
City was already without George Davis IV, and with Brian Ownby relegated to the bench for rest, they suffered another setback in the 27th minute as captain Paolo DelPiccolo was forced off with an apparent leg injury. DelPiccolo was walking fine until he sat down stretching his leg. The severity of the injury is unknown. Mark-Anthony Kaye replaced the Louisville alum.
City had a great chance to equalize with a free kick in the 32nd minute. Oscar Jimenez fired over the wall, but Charlotte goalkeeper Cody Mizell came flying across goal to punch it out for a corner.
Martinez doubled Charlotte’s advantage after a rare Louisville defensive error in the 44th minute. Paco Craig gifted Martinez a clear lane to goal after a bad touch played right to the pressing Martinez. He calmly slotted the ball past the charging Dobrowolski.
City pulled one back immediately after the break in the 47th minute. Niall McCabe played a through ball to Mark-Anthony Kaye. In a similar angle to Martinez’s first goal, Anthony finished past Mizell.
City did all but equalize in the 66th minute. Speedy Williams put in a cross over the Charlotte defense. Kaye came down with the ball and lots of room. Mizell closed the angle quickly, so Kaye squared it to Lancaster, who headed it, but was cleared off the line. Mizell pounced on the ball to quell the City pressure.
Martinez capped off his great night by bagging his hat trick and putting the game away in the 82 minute. Enzo’s brother Alex made way into the box. His no look pass to Enzo gave him a good angle and fired past Dobrowolski. However, the referee ended Enzo’s night short. Enzo was given his second yellow for what is assumed to be excessive celebrating.
City had their chances to get back into the game, but Mizell came up big, again and again, to keep Charlotte ahead.
Louisville returns to Slugger Field on Aug. 12 to face FC Cincinnati. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.