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Charlotte Independence faces steep challenge from Rochester Rhinos

Charlotte Independence midfielder Jorge Herrera (right, in action earlier this season against the Charleston Battery) and his teammates hope to hand the Rochester Rhinos their first United Soccer League loss Saturday.
Charlotte Independence midfielder Jorge Herrera (right, in action earlier this season against the Charleston Battery) and his teammates hope to hand the Rochester Rhinos their first United Soccer League loss Saturday.

The Charlotte Independence is facing a United Soccer League juggernaut Saturday.

The Rochester Rhinos, unbeaten through 19 games, will put their 12-0-7 record on the line against the Independence at 7 p.m. at Ramblewood Soccer Complex.

The Rhinos’ 43 points give them a substantial lead in the USL’s Eastern Conference, ahead of second-place Louisville City FC (10-3-5, 35 points).

The Independence (5-6-5), however, is the only team to come away with any kind of a result against the Rhinos this season in Rochester, where the teams played to a 1-1 tie on July 18. The Rhinos have a league-leading 13 shutouts this season, with goalkeeper Brandon Miller sporting a .22 goals-against average.

Rochester has the league’s top defense, with 13 shutouts

The Independence (20 points) is five points out of the sixth and final playoff spot in the East. But Charlotte can make up ground because it has played only 16 games, fewer than the two teams tied for sixth place (Pittsburgh, 19; and Harrisburg, 17) and eighth-place Saint Louis (18).

5 Points out of sixth and final playoff spot in Eastern Conference for Independence

Independence midfielder Alex Martinez was named to the USL’s team of the week. Martinez scored a goal in a 2-0 victory against Montreal.

Charlotte has signed midfielder Michael Bustamante, who was waived in March by Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls after suffering a knee injury in 2014.

“It’s a nice addition for us at this point in the season,” Independence coach Mike Jeffries said. “For him, it’s kind of working back into fitness from time off from injury, so it’s a work in progress a little bit in terms of him getting on the field with our group. But it certainly gives us another guy that’s a really good two-way soccer player, in terms of his mentality on both sides of the ball.”

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