Photo courtesy Charlotte Independence
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Enzo Martinez had the only goal and Cody Mizell recorded a seven-save shutout as the Charlotte Independence took a 1-0 victory against Bethlehem Steel FC on Wednesday night at the Sportsplex at Matthews in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3. Steel FC got the first good chance of the game in the 12th minute when Santi Moar broke into the left side of the penalty area and cut inside past his defender, but Mizell parried the ball away, allowing Charlotte to clear. The Independence took time to come into the game, but after a good spell of pressure took the lead in the 33rd minute as Martinez threaded a shot into the bottom-left corner of the net for his 13th goal of the season. Donnie Smith almost added a second for the Independence a minute before halftime, sending a short clearance just wide of the right post, while Alex Martinez sent a header just left of the net in stoppage time. Bethlehem’s Moar threatened again just before the hour-mark, and then fired a shot that Mizell gave up a rebound on that was cleared to safety. Anthony Fontana then forced a save from Mizell as Steel FC continued to press for an equalizer. The Independence twice went close to an insurance goal as Joel Johnson had a shot blocked after a good cut in from the right, while Martinez forced a good save by Steel FC goalkeeper Tomas Romero with 16 minutes to go. Romero was again sharp as he turned away Charlotte’s Smith on a counterattack, and Martinez almost added a second in stoppage time only for Romero to tip his shot wide. Steel FC couldn’t find an equalizer, however, allowing the Independence to move to 5-0-1 at the Sportsplex at Matthews.
33’ – CLT – Enzo Martinez
Three Things That Matter:
1. After seeing their undefeated streak come to an end on Saturday night, the Independence got right back on the horse for their fifth win in six games at the Sportsplex at Matthews to move five points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference. Inevitably, it was Enzo Martinez who scored the game-winning goal, his fourth in August, that gave the hosts victory as his precise finish after a half-cleared cross gave Steel FC goalkeeper Tomas Romero little chance. Martinez has picked up the goal-scoring mantle from July’s USL Player of the Month Jorge Herrera, and could be in contention for a similar award himself, in addition to a second consecutive All-League selection, with 13 goals already this season.
2. If the goal from Martinez was predictable at one end, another stellar display by Independence goalkeeper Cody Mizell at the other was also. Mizell has made numerous highlight reels so far this season with saves that have helped preserve points for Charlotte, and Wednesday night was no exception. Mizell recorded seven saves on the night, including an excellent period around the hour-mark as Bethlehem pressed hard for an equalizer. On one of his busier nights of the season, Mizell came through in a big way for the hosts.
3. Bethlehem entered Wednesday night’s contest aiming for some revenge from the 4-0 defeat the side suffered at Goodman Stadium last month. Steel FC was far better in this contest, but walked away empty-handed from a game it will consider itself unlucky in. Despite the loss, Steel FC is still in solid position in terms of the playoff race, and should take a number of positives away as it heads home for another major test on Sunday evening against another major Eastern Conference contender in Louisville City FC.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Cody Mizell, Charlotte Independence – Mizell’s seven-save shutout earned his fourth shutout of the season, and left Steel FC with nothing to show from its strong road performance.
Charlotte Independence vs. Orlando City B – August 19, 7 p.m. ET, Sportsplex at Matthews
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Louisville City FC – August 20, 5 p.m. ET, Goodman Stadium