The Charlotte Independence played a very physical third place team to an epic 2-2 draw on Saturday night in the Sportsplex at Matthews. Pittsburgh is a good team, they are solid defensively, the Riverhounds have the ability to counter and get forward quickly from anywhere on the field.
The Jacks looked like they had this game won when Charlotte took a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute. However, at the 90th minute plus 4 minutes, with only possibly 20 seconds remaining in the match Pittsburgh would score a goal off a rebound to earn the draw.
This loss was devastating and heartbreaking for Charlotte. The Jacks needed the 3 points and the win to remain in serious contention for the final playoff spot. Now they are in a must win situation for the rest of the season. They must win all three remaining games and two on the road. Also, they will need some help from teams who are ahead of them in the standings.
The Independence started off slow in this match with much of the game played at midfield or defending their own turf as Pittsburgh applied pressure from the initial kick-off. They fell behind in the 4th minute when Riverhounds forward Romeo Parkes beat the defense for a 1-0 lead. However, the Independence responded as the tempo and pressure intensified after their opponents early goal. At the 19th minute, Alex Martinez would find an open Jorge Herrera inside the box who would slam a shot past the Pittsburgh goal keeper to tie the game at 1-1.
In the second half the teams continued to battle with some extraordinary physical play by both clubs. There were three yellow cards issued as the Jacks tried to match the physicality of their opponent. Then in the 86th minute late in the contest, Cordell Cato would loft a cross that was headed by Jorge Herrera to Eamon Zayed who slammed a shot into the net for the go-ahead goal putting the Jacks up 2-1.
In regulation at 90 minutes the Jacks looked solid. The officials added 4 minutes of stoppage time, with 20 seconds remaining Ben Zemanski would score off a rebound shot that was not cleared and poked the ball past Brandon Miller for the equalizer.
“Obviously this one feels like a loss,” said Coach Jeffries. “There’s a part that says we just can’t shake the demons, but we have to push through it. “When you get the lead and there’s five minutes left you want to protect it, but I feel we almost got away from the things we wanted to do and went into a shell and got punished for it.”
The Independence have a five game unbeaten streak in September. They now must travel to play Penn FC at FNB Field on Wednesday and win. Then play Saturday night in Tampa against the Rowdies before returning home for the final game of the season on Saturday October 13th in the Sportsplex at Matthews.