The Charlotte Independence’s surprising run to the round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup is having a carryover effect in league play.
Fresh off a 1-0 upset victory over the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer in Cambridge, Mass., on Wednesday, the Independence returned to its USL Pro League schedule with a 2-1 victory over the Charleston Battery on Saturday night.
Tomasz Zahorski scored in the match’s final minute to help the Independence (4-4-3, 15 points) to a win in their debut game in its temporary home stadium at the Ramblewood Soccer Complex.
“When you beat good teams, it breeds confidence and we’re showing that we can play a 90-minute game,” said Independence coach Mike Jeffries, whose team faces the Chicago Fire in its next Cup game on June 30. “This wasn’t the prettiest game and it took us a while to get into it, but we found a way to win it.”
Zahorski, who entered the match as a substitute with 10 minutes to play, notched the game winner with a sliding shot from the left of the goal after knocking down a cross from Jorge Herrera.
“It’s tough for anybody to come in with 10 minutes left and get into the flow of the game,” Jeffries said. “But (Zahorski) is a good target, and he’s a good finisher.”
It was a big finish to a game which had started with second-place Charleston (6-2-6, 24 points) keeping the ball in the Charlotte end of the pitch for the first 30 minutes.
“It’s been a hard week with the travel and that showed at first, but as the season goes on we’re going to face some three-games-in-a-week situations,” Jeffries said.
But the Independence broke through with the game’s first goal just before halftime.
Ryan Finley beat a Charleston defender to a deflected corner kick by teammate Enzo Martinez in the 18-yard box and slammed a hard shot that went off the hands of Battery goalkeeper Kevin Corby and into the back of the net.
The score resulted in yellow cards to Finley and Charleston players O’Brien Woodbine and Justin Portillo after a post-goal shouting match.
The Battery scored the equalizer eight minutes into the second half, on a bending corner kick by Jarad van Schaik just out of the reach of Charlotte goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap.
NOTES: Stadium flags flew at half-staff in memory of the nine victims of the recent shootings in Charleston. … The Independence will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday against USL Pro League opponent Richmond at Ramblewood Soccer Complex.