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Charlotte Independence starts USL season with a close loss

Charlotte Independence midfielder David Estrada, right, and Louisville City FC midfielder Kyle Smith battle for control of the ball during the first half of their United Soccer League match on Saturday, March 26, 2016, at the Ramblewood Soccer Complex stadium in Charlotte.
Charlotte Independence midfielder David Estrada, right, and Louisville City FC midfielder Kyle Smith battle for control of the ball during the first half of their United Soccer League match on Saturday, March 26, 2016, at the Ramblewood Soccer Complex stadium in Charlotte.

It may be a new season for the Charlotte Independence, but it began just like last year – with a heartbreaking loss.

Louisville City FC scored in the final seconds of the second half to hand the Independence a 1-0 loss in their United Soccer League season opener Saturday night.

Louisville forward Cameron Lancaster put his free kick from 25 yards out just off Charlotte goalkeeper Cody Mizell’s hands in the final minute of stoppage time to abruptly end what was looking like a draw.

“You feel for the guys,” Independence coach Mike Jeffries said. “Losing that way is a big dagger, but we’ll move on. But it is a tough way to lose. We didn’t close out the game the way we should have.”

Until then, Charlotte was hanging tough with Louisville City FC, which had a 12-2 shot advantage in the second half until Lancaster put home the game winner.

That was a turnaround from the first half, when each team had just five shots and one shot on goal.

In fact, the Independence had their chance to take the lead at the 75th minute, when forward Caleb Calvert was tackled in the goal box by Louisville midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, setting up a penalty kick.

But Louisville goalkeeper Scott Goodwin made a diving save on Charlotte forward Jorge Herrera’s shot towards the right post.

“It’s tough to miss,” Jeffries said. “Jorge is great on penalties, and will step up and make most of them. You feel for him, but sometimes that happens.”

Quote: “The goalkeeper’s job, it’s going to break down sometimes and he’s got to make plays. He handled the crosses pretty well. He had a lot of crosses he had to deal with. He made good decisions, and it was a solid night for him.” – Jeffries on Mizell’s performance.

Worth mentioning: Six yellow cards were issued in Saturday’s match, four of those to Independence players – all coming in the second half. Herrera was carded in the 50th minute, Enzo Martinez in the 62nd minute, Jack Metcalf in the 81st minute and Bilal Duckett in stoppage time. … Mizell finished with four saves in his first game with the Independence. … Goodwin made three saves.

What’s next: The Independence host the Harrisburg (Pa.) City Islanders on April 2 at the Ramblewood Soccer Complex stadium. Game time is 7 p.m.

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