The combination of midfielder Enzo Martinez to forward Dominique Badji was shaping up to be a winning one for the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday night.
But a late goal by Leonard Stoltz earned the New York Red Bulls II squad a 2-2 draw in a match between two United Soccer League teams battling for playoff position.
A crowd of 2,006 fans saw the game at Ramblewood Soccer Complex
“It’s a lost opportunity,” Independence coach Mike Jeffries said. “We’re at home against a team that’s ahead of us in the table (standings). A very disappointing result.”
Badji, playing in his fourth game since joining Charlotte on loan from the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, scored both Independence goals on assists from Martinez.
The second goal, a blast from the top of the 18-yard box less than a half-minute into the second half, gave the Independence (6-6-6, 24 points) a 2-1 lead and a boost toward what could have been the team’s first three-game winning streak.
But Stoltz got the equalizer for New York (9-7-5, 32 points) with 19 minutes to play on a shot from about 16 yards.
“They’re a good team in possession, and they gave us a lot of trouble,” Jeffries said. “But we had three or four good opportunities just in the second half that we didn’t capitalize on, and you can’t let those lie. In order to be able to progress, we’ve got to learn to bury teams.”
The Independence carried the play to New York for most of the first half after giving up a goal on a 20-foot shot by Frank Castellanos in the fifth minute.
Charlotte tied the match in the 24th minute on Badji’s first goal of the season. Martinez, the former Rock Hill Northwestern standout, sprung him with a ball down the far sideline, then Badji chipped a shot past New York goalkeeper Rafael Diaz from about 15 yards.
“They worked well together tonight,” Jeffries said. “Enzo got good penetration and found openings down the sidelines for passes, and (Badji) got good position and finished well.”
The Independence had a pair of near-misses off the post, by Daniel Jackson in the 40th minute and Ryan Finley in the 54
▪ The Independence and Red Bulls II play a rematch at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Harrison, N.J. Charlotte’s next home match is at 7 p.m. Aug. 22 against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Ramblewood Soccer Complex.
▪ Forward Alex Martinez was suspended by the USL for the match due to an accumulation of yellow cards.