MADISON, WI – The Charlotte Independence claimed a 2-1 win on the road at Forward Madison FC on Saturday night to climb to the top of the USL League One table.
“It’s great character. I thought they came out, despite heavy legs, and got into the game pretty quickly. It was nice to get the first goal and play from the lead,” Charlotte Independence head coach Mike Jeffries said.
“I thought that was a big plus for us for sure. I thought the guys fought throughout the game just to protect the game. It certainly wasn’t easy. It was a tremendous atmosphere here. I think that works both ways, I think that kind of kept us going a bit as well.”
It did not take long for the Independence to open the scoring as #9 Ivan Luquetta notched his second goal of the season in the 7th minute. A soaring cross from the right side by #2 Koa Santos found Luquetta in front of goal to head it home for the lead. Luquetta was persistent on the attack throughout the evening, continually trying to create chances for the Independence.
“We’re motivated, we feel good about getting the three points. The last game, we unfortunately weren’t able to do so,” Luquetta said. “So, we came out with the mentality that we wanted to win. I was happy to get a goal and now we head into this small break and get ready for the next one.”
#1 Keegan Meyer started for the first time since April 8 and recorded a vital diving save in the 29th minute to maintain the Jacks’ lead. He was active in the penalty area throughout the game, sliding to steal the ball from an attacker’s feet in the 37th minute and punching away a corner in first half stoppage time.
The Jacks thought the lead had doubled in the 35th minute when #90 Khori Bennett connected with another cross from Santos, but Bennett was ruled offside.
#5 Shalom Dutey made a huge tackle in the penalty area in the closing minutes of the first half to preserve the lead going into halftime.
The Jacks carried the one-goal lead into the break: Forward Madison 0 – Charlotte Independence 1
Offensive pressure continued from the Independence to start the second half with #19 Quinn McNeill laying the ball off to Luquetta for a shot from the top of the penalty area. Luquetta connected with #6 Omar Ciss a few minutes later for another shot on target for the Jacks from Ciss.
McNeill doubled the lead with a stunner from distance in the 60th minute. He earned his first professional goal with a chip over the Madison keeper from outside the penalty area.
“It was a great feeling and even better to grab the 3 points,” McNeill said. “The boys have been behind me all year to get my first and to do it tonight was special.
The Flamingos cut the Jacks’ lead in half with a strike to the far post in the 77th minute by #24 Nazeem Bartman. Nevertheless, the Independence defense prevented a comeback by Forward Madison. #7 Miguel Ibarra launched a crucial diving header out the backline to prevent a scoring opportunity for the Flamingos in stoppage time. Meyer punched away another threatening corner in the final minute of the game to preserve the win.
Charlotte Independence is now in first place in the USL League One table with 14 points and remains undefeated on the road this season. The Jacks earned six points from three games in six days during one of the busiest stretches of the schedule this season.
“It’s a quarter of the way in and it’s a good time to have a little bit of a break from our end to try to regroup and recover. A lot of guys played a lot of minutes,” Jeffries said. “I also want to credit Miguel Ibarra, he played a different role and was fantastic all game. He was just a real presence on the field and thought it was a real plus performance from him.”
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE: The Jacks have a break before traveling to play Greenville Triumph on Saturday, June 4 at 7 PM. Charlotte Independence is offering a free bus ride to the first 50 fans who register for the trip to face a new regional rival. Sign up now at https://t.co/HS0tNg6auL