When the Charlotte Independence needed a hero Wednesday night, they found several of them.
Deadlocked at 1-1 with a Toronto team scraping the bottom of the United Soccer League’s Eastern Division standings, the Independence (10-6-10, 40 points) got quick goals from second-half substitutes Ryan Finley and Jack Thompson to spark a 4-1 victory in front of a crowd of 1,874 at rain-soaked Ramblewood Soccer Complex.
The surging Charlotte team kept its unbeaten streak going at 12 games (6-0-6 record). But even more important, with just two games left in the regular season, the Independence took sole possession of fifth place in the division. They had been tied with Richmond, which didn’t play Wednesday. The top six teams make the playoffs.
“It’s a big win,” said Independence coach Mike Jeffries. “The soccer part of things has gotten better all season and now we’re a confident team, too. We brought some guys off the bench in the second half who helped us find a way to win. Down this (unbeaten) stretch, we’ve had a lot of different guys contribute.”
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Finley scored the game-winner off a cross from Jorge Herrera in the 62nd minute, moments after enteringthe game. Finleyadded an exclamation-point goal in the final minute to boost his team-leading total to eight.
But he was quick to pass the credit around afterward, and cited the team’s overall improvement during the season.
“The starters wore them down,” he said. “We’ve gotten better and better at creating chances all season, and you figure it’s just a matter of time before they start to go in. We wanted to stay calm, but to try to create a spark when we came into the game.”
Another combo of subs scored less than two minutes later when Caleb Calvert served the ball into the 18-yard box and Thompson volleyed it into the low left corner of the goal.
Toronto (6-15-4, 22 points) had deadlocked the match five minutes into the second half on a goal by Raheem Edwards.
The Independence scored the only goal of the first half 23 minutes into the game. After a sideline run, Zahorski lined up a shot in the 6-yard box, which was blocked. He collected the rebound and blasted it past Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono.
Notes: The Independence close the regular season with road matches at St. Louis on Saturday and Charleston on Sept. 19. … Charlotte’s defense has allowed the third fewest goals (30) in the league this season. Only Rochester (12) and Charleston (27) have been stingier on defense.