Just past the midpoint of the season, this was a match I had circled on my calendar. I was certain there would be dire playoff implications attached to it. Charlotte was ascendant, having finally found a nearly-permanent home in Matthews. They had soundly beat Louisville City, and were on a very hot run of form.
Fast forward to last Saturday night. LouCity had already wrapped up the number one seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs by a comfortable margin. Charlotte had lost three straight matches, but were still fighting for position in the table so they could get a home playoff game or two. The Independence had a lot to play for, while City’s overarching goal was probably not to get anyone hurt.
In spite of all that, Saturday night’s game against Charlotte was entertaining once you ignore the officials’ attempts to ruin everything about it. Alex and Enzo Martinez put on a masterclass in “how to lose everyone’s respect and generally annoy people,” and neither one got a yellow card for it. Lukasz Szpala must have run out.
Regarding the numbers, this game was pretty even on paper. Louisville City had more of the ball (56%) and had nine corners to Charlotte’s one. The Independence, though, did better in duels (55%) and rather frustrated LouCity’s wide attack plan, snuffing out all but one of City’s 21 crosses into the box. City scored two goals, both of which were a little bit lucky, but we’ll obviously take them. Charlotte’s lone goal was well-taken, but was also the Indies’ only quality chance of the night.
The back three played well, though I don’t think it was one of Paco Craig’s better games. He lost seven of his eleven duels, and conceded three fouls, two of which I recall being in dangerous spots for the defense. Certainly that’s out of the ordinary for Paco, who’s really come into his own in that role this season.
Central midfield was fine, and more than serviceable in Speedy Williams’s absence. Zero complaints, especially in light of a pretty good performance from Charlotte’s huge defensive midfielder Callum Ross. Oscar and Kyle Smith both played fine, as well. I thought the front three played very well, and were as connected as I’ve seen any front three play for City in several games. Luke Spencer was a beast in the center, winning five of six aerial balls, and eight of his thirteen overall duels. That’s no mean feat in the face of Henry Kalungi and Bilal Duckett. Cuatro and Niall also had very nice games.
Brian Ownby was obviously an impact sub. I suspect fitness or trying to be careful with fitness or an injury is the only reason he didn’t start on Saturday night, but he definitely provided a spark after Charlotte’s goal.
This win was really a team effort. I don’t think there were any real standout performances, other than Alex Martinez’s Oscar-worthy play-acting during set pieces, but that’s not a bad thing. It was a good win, a nice team performance, and maybe gives the guys a sliver of a chance to relax going into the last regular season match of the season on Saturday again Richmond.
COME ON, CITY!