A two-game winning streak might not seem like a big deal, but right now it’s a lifeline for the Charlotte Eagles.
A 2-0 victory over USL Pro League rival Wilmington on Saturday night at Queens University Sports Complex gave the Eagles (7-11-3, 24 points) their first back-to-back wins of the season and kept them in the hunt for the post-season.
“We’re playing well enough to be there,” Charlotte coach Mark Steffens said. “There’s a lot of parity after the first couple of teams and everyone’s knocking each other off. If we can put together a few wins in a row we’ve got a good chance.”
Charlotte started the evening three points (one win) out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the league. Orange County, the team closest to them in the standings, played a late game against Los Angeles on Saturday.
Ben Newnam and Jorge Herrera scored for Charlotte, which has handed Wilmington (6-3-8, 26 points) two of its three losses on the season.
On this night, the Eagles had more energy than the Hammerheads (6-3-8, 26 points), who were down a couple of players because of accumulated yellow cards and had battled Arizona to a scoreless draw on Friday night.
Newnam put Charlotte on the scoreboard in the 28th minute with an opportunistic score from the edge of the 6-yard box, beating a couple of Wilmington defenders to a loose ball after a corner kick and left-footing into the top right corner of the net. It was his third goal of the season.
“It definitely put us on the front foot and took some pressure off,” Newnam said. “Two wins in a row have been a long time coming. It looked like we might be out of it by now, but we’re still hanging around
The Eagles remained dangerous in the second half, but it took a break late in the game to get them their second goal. Wilmington midfielder Drew Ruggles was called for a hand ball in the 18-yard box, resulting in a penalty kick for the Eagles. Herrera chipped it over the head of Hammerheads goalkeeper Guillian Roberts for the score.
“I thought we defended exceptionally well, our entire group,” Steffens said. “They play a lot of direct, long balls and we were well prepared for that tonight. We’re not a potent attacking team so getting an early goal was huge for us.”
Wilmington outshot the Eagles, 11-6.
NOTES: The Eagles’ next game is Saturday at league-leading and unbeaten Orlando, which will be moving to Major League Soccer next season.
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