5:19 am - Friday May 26, 2017

Independence Carry USL Torch Into Round of 16‏

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Herrera’s goal earns 1-0 victory against New England Revolution In Open Cup

 

The Charlotte Independence might be expansion by name in the USL and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but the club has quickly stepped up its game in the tournament field.

Charlotte advanced to the Open Cup’s Round of 16, earning a 1-0 victory against Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution on Wednesday at Soldiers Field on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Head coach Mike Jeffries, a former assistant during the Chicago Fire’s 1998 and 2000 Open Cup title runs, has lived and breathed this competition for many years. Now, the Independence will be carrying the USL torch the rest of the way in this year’s competition.

“This is huge for the guys,” Jeffries said after the win. “We’re a very good team, and when we come up against some other teams on paper, maybe we’re the underdog. They’ve been able to show we belong, and for them this is a really good night that we’ll enjoy and feel confident about.”

The Independence opened the Open Cup with a 4-1 victory against the Upward Stars in second-round action and then defeated the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks, 1-0, in the third round.

Thanks to captain Jorge Herrera’s highlight reel 55th-minute strike – a long-distance, right-footed drive into the upper right corner – Charlotte garnered the necessary lead to upend the Revolution during Wednesday’s fourth round. In that goal-scoring sequence, the Independence worked the ball well up the left side, particularly with a couple of key touches from Alex Martinez.

“We have a technical group, and against an MLS team, you’re not going to be able to possess the ball as you would necessarily like,” Jeffries said. “Jorge and Alex did an unbelievable job on that play, moving the ball and making tight passes to play quickly at them.”

Charlotte had its work cut out against a talented Revs side on Wednesday. The skill level of Kelyn Rowe’s 28th-minute attempt from the end line was just one example of the creativity the Independence had to defend.

Anchored by 32-year-old goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap, who recently joined the team on loan, the Independence maintained the clean sheet against New England.

“He brings a lot of experience into a game like this,” Jeffries said. “He was composed and he helped the back group settle in. We were able to cut off several passes and anything else that came his way, so it was a great night for him.”

Overall, it was a strong group effort to break up the Revs’ attack, including some key interceptions from Paolo Del Piccolo and other stable midfield play from the likes of Andrew Ribeiro.

“I thought Paolo’s passing was really good and he got us out of some pressure situations,” Jeffries said. “That was important for us to release guys like Jorge and get forward. I also thought Ribeiro was good in the middle of the field to shut down a lot of their attacking play.

“We had a few nervous moments in the beginning that forced some saves out of us, but in the second half we pushed the tempo a little bit and applied some pressure. It was a good game and we worked hard. It meant a lot to the guys and they were up for it.”

The Independence will learn their Round of 16 opponent on Thursday when the U.S. Open Cup conducts its draw from U.S. Soccer House in Chicago (11 a.m. ET on ussoccer.com). The Round of 16 matches will take place on June 30 and July 1.

ORLANDO CITY 4 (8), CHARLESTON BATTERY 4 (7): The Charleston Battery rallied back from a two-goal deficit in extra time, but for a second consecutive season fell in agonizing fashion in a penalty shootout. Orlando City SC won 8-7 in the shootout after the sides had played to a 4-4 draw after extra time. Justin Portillo was the hero for the Battery with both goals in the additional 30 minutes, while Earl Edwards Jr. made the decisive save to earn his side the victory in the 10th round of the shootout.

The game went to the halftime break scoreless, as a late clearance off the line denied the Battery the opening goal. Charleston struck first from a corner kick in the 52nd minute as Jarad van Schaik powered home a header. Orlando leveled the score as former USL standout Lewis Neal headed home a cross in the 63rd minute, but the Battery quickly regained the lead as Dane Kelly scored on a breakaway three minutes later.

Orlando again tied the score with 15 minutes to go, as Edwin Rivas converted from the penalty spot to send the game to extra time. The Lions were then awarded another spot kick two minutes into the extra session, which Rivas duly dispatched for Orlando’s first lead of the game.

As the Battery pushed for an equalizer, Orlando was awarded a third penalty kick in the final minute of the first half of extra time. Rivas again converted to make it 4-2, but the Battery regained some hope as Justin Portillo scored with a drive from 30 yards with the final kick of the period to cut Charleston’s deficit to one.

The Battery then held most of the play in the final 15 minutes, and were rewarded for their pressure with a penalty kick of their own with five minutes to go. Portillo converted to make it 4-4  and send the game to a shootout.

Charleston twice held an advantage in the shootout, as Odisnel Cooper saved from Rivas and Neal, but Edwards was equal to the challenge as he too made a pair of stops in the first five shots to send the game to sudden death. The sides matched each other goal for goal in the next four rounds, but Edwards was able to make a decisive save of Taylor Mueller to open the 10th round. When Orlando’s Danny Mwanga converted with the next shot, the Lions secured their place in the Round of 16.

D.C. UNITED 3, PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS 1, AET: D.C. United scored twice in extra time as it took victory against the Riverhounds in front of a capacity crowd at Highmark Stadium. United proved lethal from set pieces, as it took the lead in the eighth minute when Facundo Corea tapped home at the back post from a flicked corner. Pittsburgh leveled the score from the penalty spot as Rob Vincent scored his third goal of the tournament in the 24th minute, and neither side was able to find a winner in regulation.

It didn’t take long for D.C. to strike in the extra session, however, as Kofi Opare’s powerful header in the 92nd minute restored the lead. Pittsburgh twice came close to equalizing, as Vincent was denied by Andrew Dykstra and Drew Russell had a header come back off the post, but with six minutes to go Nick DeLeon headed home for United’s third, and a place in the Round of 16.

COLUMBUS CREW SC 3, RICHMOND KICKERS 1: Adam Bedell scored a pair of goals as Columbus took victory against the Kickers at City Stadium. Bedell began and finished the move that gave Crew SC the lead in the 18th minute, but the Kickers got back on level terms through a free kick by Fred Sekyere six minutes later. Columbus took the lead for good a minute before halftime, though, when Ethan Finlay scored from close range, and a spectacular finish at the hour mark by Bedell wrapped up the win, and some revenge for the Kickers’ upset of Crew SC in the 2011 Open Cup.

HOUSTON DYNAMO 2, AUSTIN AZTEX 0: Goals in either half by Leonel Miranda and Ricardo Clark earned the Dynamo victory against the Aztex at BBVA Compass Stadium. Houston took the lead in the 24th minute as Alex played in Miranda, and the midfielder slid his finish past Aztex goalkeeper Devin Perales. Austin had chances to level the score, the best from Trevin Caesar as he forced a fingertip stop from Joe Willis with 16 minutes to go, but the Dynamo wrapped up the win in stoppage time as Clark finished off the tie.

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