The list of firsts Friday night for Charlotte’s new pro soccer team included almost everything but a victory.
The Charleston Battery got that in a 3-2 USL Pro League win over the Charlotte Independence at UNC Charlotte’s Transamerica Field.
“We wanted to make it a memorable night for the guys on the field and for everybody who came out,” Independence coach Mike Jeffries said. “So we’re a little disappointed on that score. But we did a lot of stuff to build on.”
Midfielder Jack Thompson, a first-year pro, and forward Ryan Finley scored for the Independence, who have taken over the USL second-tier franchise held for more than 20 years by the Charlotte Eagles. The Eagles moved down one level in classification to the Premier Development League.
The Independence’s debut had its highs and low, with a strong start and finish bookending a few defensive mistakes which lead to goals by a veteran Charleston team.
Haviel Cordoves scored two goals and assisted on another for the Battery (2-0).
Charlotte energized a crowd of 2,241 on a rainy and chilly night with several good scoring chances in the opening minutes.
Caleb Calvert banged a header off the post in the opening minute, setting an aggressive tone for the Independence attack, which dominated the play for the first 10 minutes. Finley blasted a shot from five yards a few minutes later that Charleston keeper Odisnel Cooper kicked away and former Rock Hill Northwestern standout Enzo Martinez just missed on a rocket from about 20 yards out.
But Charleston withstood that assault and got on the scoreboard first in the 10th minute. Cordoves started a run at midfield and blasted a shot past Independence goalkeeper John Berner, who had come out to the edge of the 18-yard box to challenge.
Charlotte tied the match three minutes later when Thompson took a back-heel pass from Jorge Herrera – the only holdover from the Eagles on the Independence roster – and scored from the six-yard box.
But the Battery went back ahead for good in the 20th minute when Ricky Garbanzo scored on an assist from Cordoves. They took a 3-1 lead to halftime when Cordoves made a run down the middle of the pitch and chipped a shot over the head of Berner from just inside the 18-yard box.
“We created some good opportunities for ourselves, but I’m disappointed that we let in three soft goals,” Jeffries said.
That defense tightened up in the second half, but Charlotte managed only one more score, on a penalty kick by Finley in the 48th minute.
“We did good things in stretches in the second half, but we didn’t really put them under the gun enough at the end,” Jeffries said. “I didn’t think we were fit enough to push the tempo like we needed to.”
NOTES: The Independence play their next two games on the road, at Wilmington on Friday and at Richmond on April 18. The next home game will be at 7:30 p.m. April 24 against the Harrisburg City Islanders at Transamerica Field.