The Charlotte Independence got off to a rocky start in U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday at Winthrop University’s Eagle Field.
But after giving up a bizarre early goal, the Independence bounced back behind three scores from forward Tomasz Zahorski to take a 4-1 victory over Upward Stars FC in a second-round match.
“It’s an exciting tournament, and in a one-off anything can happen,” said Independence coach Mike Jeffries of the Cup, a 102-year-old competition whose field ranges from local amateur teams to Major League Soccer clubs.
“Give our guys credit because they bounced back,” Jeffries said. “They maintained their composure and didn’t panic.”
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The Upward Stars, a semipro team from Spartanburg scored in the 12th minute, aided by a defensive lapse by Charlotte. Independence goalkeeper Diego Restrepo botched an attempt to play the ball when he went out to challenge Stars forward Andre Carle on a breakaway. Carle recovered it and rolled the ball into an empty net for a 1-0 lead.
But the Independence scored the equalizer seven minutes later when Zahorski, playing in only his third game of the season, headed a pass from defender Ben Newnam into the back of the net.
The Independence extended that lead to 3-1 by halftime on a goal by former Rock Hill Northwestern High standout Enzo Martinez in the 40th minute and another by Zahorski on a blast from just inside the 18-yard box right before halftime.
“He had a nice game, and it wasn’t just the scoring,” Jeffries said. “We had a chance to see what he can do in front of the goal and he took advantage, getting open for some good opportunities,”
Zoharski added the Independence’s last score in second-half extra time.
“You can always find little mistakes you need to fix,” Jeffries said. “We haven’t had a lot of leads so far, and I’m a little disappointed in the way we managed a 3-1 lead.”
With the win, the Independence advance to a third-round game with the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League on Wednesday in Cary.
NOTES: Newnam, who played for several seasons with the Charlotte Eagles, is on loan to the Independence from the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer. The Rapids recalled midfielder Marlon Hairston from Charlotte. … Charlotte returns to USL Pro League play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with a road game against the Charleston (S.C.) Battery. … The next Independence home game is June 13 against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.