Giving up early goals has regularly come back to haunt the Charlotte Eagles this season.
“This game’s too hard and the level of defensive play in this league is too high to expect to come back every time you get scored on,” Eagles coach Mark Steffens said after road-weary Charlotte’s fourth straight loss Saturday night.
The Eagles (3-7) gave up a pair of first-half goals to USL Pro League rival Wilmington in a 2-1 setback at the Queens University Sports Complex. Drew Yates scored Charlotte’s only goal, just the second in that four-game stretch, in the last minute of regular time to avoid the shutout. Wilmington (5-1-2) has won four straight.
“We’re struggling just to create good scoring chances right now, which is even more concerning than not putting it in the back of the net,” Steffens said. “We went almost three full games without scoring, and that’s not what a playoff team does.”
Charlotte fell behind quickly in its fourth game in 11 days when Hammerheads forward Manny Aparicio got behind the Eagles defense with a pass from Samuel Ochoa and rolled a shot by goalkeeper Brock Duckworth in the 12th minute.
Wilmington scored again 20 minutes later when a shot from the top of the 18-yard box by midfielder Steve Miller caromed off a Charlotte defender and into the goal.
“We’re continuing to give up goals early in the game against the flow of play,” Steffens said. “We worked hard for the rest of the game, but we’re just not good enough right now.”
The Eagles, who had only one shot on goal in the first 35 minutes, rebounded from the first-half disaster to put more pressure on. Offensive threat Yates entered the game along with fellow midfielders Jorge Herrera and Juan Guzman after halftime, which helped.
“We’ve traveled all over creation to play this month — Arizona, L.A., Orlando, Richmond — and played the two U.S. Open Cup games,” Steffens said. “We’ve had to try to rotate players a little more than usual to keep fresh legs in the game.”
Yates finally ended Charlotte’s scoring drought with a shot from about 12 yards out just as regular time was about to expire.
“We showed some resiliency in the second half,” Steffens said. “Our possession game can wear a team down, but it’s hard to do that playing from behind.”
The Eagles will get another chance to snap the losing streak at 7 p.m. June 7 against the Oklahoma City Energy at the Queens University Sports Complex.
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