Photo courtesy of Saint Louis FC
FENTON, Mo. – The Charlotte Independence – the last remaining Eastern Conference side without a win – were in need of some sort of spark. They found it in the form of 2016 USL MVP finalist Enzo Martinez. Martinez tallied two first-half goals and propelled the Independence to a 2-1 victory against Saint Louis FC on Saturday at Toyota Field – Saint Louis. Charlotte overcame an early deficit as Martinez scored in the eighth and 28th minute to give the Independence the lead on the road. Jose Angulo had the game’s opening goal in the fourth minute, but the host side was unable to hang onto the early advantage. Charlotte improves to 1-1-2 (5 points) while Saint Louis drops to 3-2-1 (10 points).
4’ – STL – Jose Angulo
8’ – CLT – Enzo Martinez
28’ – CLT – Enzo Martinez (Yann Ekra)
Three Things That Mattered:
1. Charlotte’s Enzo Martinez, a finalist for 2016 USL MVP, had not played since his sending off against the Rochester Rhinos in the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs. The Independence had obviously missed his contributions in the early going this season, and Martinez showed his value right away against Saint Louis. Martinez frustrated STLFC’s back line and contributed a crafty equalizer in the eighth minute with a touch to beat his defender and then slotting past Devala Gorrick and into the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1. He added to that tally 20 minutes later, finding the inside of the far left post to take the lead.
2. The match started with a poor touch from Charlotte’s defense to gift Saint Louis the game’s opening goal. In the fourth minute, Independence captain Bilal Duckett attempted a right-footed pass to his goalkeeper Cody Mizell, but his tap-back wasn’t strong enough. Jose Angulo charged in for the goal as Mizell was well off his line and could not do anything to alter Angulo’s attempt. Outside of that moment, the Independence played a pretty smart game to take time away from STLFC’s potential scoring opportunities. They also sustained a number of Saint Louis attacking spells down the stretch with key clearances and heavy numbers in the defensive third, as well as some good awareness from Mizell.
3. STLFC’s newest signing, midfielder Tony Walls, made his debut on Saturday. A member of the Rochester Rhinos’ 2015 championship squad, Walls entered for Octavio Guzman to open the second half. The 2015 USL All-First Teamer had to play a careful second half, though, after he was issued a yellow card in the 59th minute and the match had a chippy feel down the stretch.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence – Martinez’s first-half brace in his first appearance of the season paced Charlotte to a strong road result.
Saint Louis FC at Orlando City B – April 27, 7:30 p.m. ET, Orlando City Stadium
Charlotte Independence at Rochester Rhinos – April 29, 6:05 p.m. ET, Capelli Sport Stadium