It was a sloppy match at home for the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night as the club found itself trailing the Wilmington Hammerheads 2-1 going into the 90th minute before a stoppage time penalty kick by Jorge Herrera improved Charlotte’s unbeaten streak to 11 matches.
“That was a hard and disappointing night,” Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries said. “I give a lot of credit to Wilmington. They came out and played with a good intensity and pushed the game at times in our place and we just weren’t quite sharp enough early on.”
Both clubs seemed to come out a little flat in the first half. Aaron Wheeler had a header bounce off target for Wilmington in the 12th minute and the match turned chippy as four yellow cards (two for each team) were distributed in the next 15 minutes. Charlotte scrounged a late opportunity in first half stoppage time when Bilal Duckett got a piece of Paolo Del Piccolo’s corner kick, but the ball pinged off the crossbar.
Sunny Jane produced the first goal of the night and gave Wilmington a 1-0 lead until Enzo Martinez found the equalizer 20 minutes later for the Independence. Martinez brought down a cross from Caleb Calvert in the box and tucked the ball into the left corner to keep the home side’s hope alive.
The momentum quickly shifted back to the Hammerheads in the 82nd minute as Qudus Lawal found the back of the net before Charlotte earned a free kick in extra time. Herrera sent the ball in and Wilmington was deemed to have brought down a Charlotte player in the box, earning the home side a penalty kick.
With the draw, the Independence moved to 9-6-10 with 37 points to hold onto the sixth and final playoff spot in the East. Charlotte saw favorable results across the Eastern Conference on Saturday night as the Richmond Kickers, Charleston Battery and Pittsburgh Riverhounds also all settled for draws. Wilmington remains at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table and close the season with two home games at Legion Stadium on September 12 and September 19.