Photo courtesy of Charlotte Independence
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – While the Queen City Cup eluded the Charlotte Independence, the host side had its share to celebrate as Jorge Herrera scored a shorthanded go-ahead goal for a 3-2 victory to clinch the organization’s USL Playoffs berth on Wednesday at the Ramblewood Soccer Complex. Charlotte played the final stretch down a man as Bilal Duckett picked up his second yellow card and was subsequently sent off in the 79th minute. Herrera’s free kick took a bit of a deflection off of a Cincinnati defender and went into the back of the net for the winner in the 85th minute. Enzo Martinez tallied two first-half goals for the Independence. Cincinnati claimed the Queen City Cup with its two road goals, coming from Andrew Wiedeman in the first half and Sean Okoli in the second half. Cincinnati earned a 2-1 win against Charlotte on April 9 in the head-to-head regular-season series. Wednesday’s game originally was to be played on May 21, but poor field conditions at Ramblewood Stadium led to the match’s postponement.
11’ – CLT – Enzo Martinez
15’ – CIN – Andrew Wiedeman (Alvaro Ripoll)
19’ – CLT – Enzo Martinez
61’ – CIN – Sean Okoli (Andrew Wiedeman)
85’ – CLT – Jorge Herrera
Three Things That Mattered:
1. Charlotte certainly was poised going down a man at the close. Jorge Herrera’s free kick strike just six minutes after going down a man was impressive. It required a little fortune with a deflection off of Cincinnati’s Paul Nicholson that pushed the strike into the left side of the frame. But it didn’t stop there. Goalkeeper John Berner came up with a clutch save against Harrison Delbridge in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time.
2. Cincinnati’s top scorer Sean Okoli put a checkmark next to the Queen City Cup with his impressive game-tying header in the 61st minute. Andrew Wiedeman set him up from the left corner, put the ball on his right foot and crossed in toward the edge of the six. Okoli had called for the pass earlier and timed his run well with Charlotte’s back line. However, he also had his back to the goal on that play. Even though he was turned around, Okoli stylishly headed the ball with the back of his head and into the frame to tie the score at 2-2. Okoli leads Cincinnati with 12 goals, while Wiedeman notched his third assist.
3. Charlotte’s scoring has been balanced for much of the season, but Enzo Martinez took a couple steps forward atop the list with a first-half brace to up his team-leading goals total to nine. Martinez opened up the scoring with an 11th-minute rebound off of his own penalty kick attempt. Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt – whose one-game suspension was rescinded following this past weekend’s 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls II – made the save to his left on the PK try. The rebound, though, ricocheted directly to Martinez and he slotted it home for the 1-0 lead. Martinez then produced an impressive long-distance tally in the 19th minute. After Wiedeman headed the ball out of the box, Martinez had time to collect it and fired a 25-yard strike in between a pair of Cincinnati defenders and into the lower left corner of the frame for a 2-1 advantage.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence – Martinez had a strong first half with two tallies to put some early pressure on Cincinnati.
Charlotte Independence at Toronto FC II – Sept. 4, 4 p.m. ET, Ontario Soccer Centre
FC Cincinnati vs. Saint Louis FC – Sept. 5, 4:30 p.m. ET, Nippert Stadium