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Charlotte Eagles let early chances slip away in 1-0 loss to Orange County Blues

By Keith Cannon
Correspondent

It was a late, and disappointing, night for the Charlotte Eagles on Friday.

In a game that ended at midnight after the start was delayed for two hours by rain and lightning, the Eagles dropped a 1-0 decision to the Orange County (Calif.) Blues in a USL Pro League game the Queens University Sports Complex.

Jiovanni Santana one-bounced a hard shot from just outside the 18-yard box past Charlotte goalkeeper Alec Kann in the 80th minute for the only score in a tightly-played defensive game.

The loss was the fifth in the last six games for the Eagles (3-8-1, 10 points). They haven’t won a Pro League game since they beat the Blues 2-0 in California on May 8.

Orange County (6-8-0, 18 points) has won three of its last four.

After a two-hour lightning delay which included a brief downpour, the teams got off to a tentative start before the Eagles gradually gained the possession advantage. Charlotte outshot the visitors 6-1 in the first half, but missed on several good scoring chances.

Forward Jorge Herrera couldn’t connect on a promising-looking left-footer for Charlotte from the 18-yard box in the sixth minute and defender Ben Newnam shot wide from the edge of the box midway through the half.

The Eagles put together a threat in the closing minutes of the half, but Fred Sekyere’s shot from about 12 yards out was blocked and cleared by the Blues’ defense.

Orange County was the more dangerous team in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, but couldn’t connect on a couple of headers at the back post by Gabriel Gonzalez.

The Eagles continued to create chances. Herrera snapped a low free kick from 20 yards in the 62nd minute, but Blues goalkeeper Patrick McCain punched it harmlessly away. About 10 minutes later, Herrera drilled a cross into the six-yard box, but Bilal Duckett’s header sailed wide left.

After Santana’s goal, the Eagles prevented another score when Kann knocked away Allan Russell’s penalty shot.

NOTES: Midfielder Stephen Okai, a Ghanian who played for Charlotte last season, started for the Blues … Going into Saturday night’s game, Eagles midfielder Drew Yates led the Pro League in assists (0.45 per game) ... Orange County played the last several minutes of the game one man short after defender Josh Suggs received a red card disqualification. The Eagles host the Charleston Battery at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Queens University Sports Complex.

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