In one of the most surprising results of the US Open Cup Fourth Round, the Charlotte Independence pulled out a hard-fought 1-0 road victory over a timid New England Revolution.
Captain Jorge Herrera hit home a wonder volley in the 55th minute that stunned Revolution keeper Brad Knighton. Charlotte held together at the back with strong performances from the likes of Bilal Duckett and Patrick Slogic to help the USL side see out the result and move to the next round.
The victory also makes the club $15,000 richer for being the last remaining third-tier team in this year’s tournament.
The Charlotte Independence celebrate what would prove to be the game-winning goal vs. New England Revolution. Photo: Kari Heistad, ProstAmerika
New England came into the game with a mixed lineup of starters and reserves. Open Cup upstart Kelyn Rowe could not create the production he had in previous versions of the tournament. The midfielder did create a moment of brilliance, as he he attempted a beautiful elastico from the endline that beat Charlotte keeper Hunter Gilstrap, but just missed the target.
Herrera’s strike early in the second half changed the tempo of the game, after an otherwise dull affair.
“It was a good goal,” Herrera said. “I got a ball from Alex Martinez, I chest it, I let it bounce and take a volley and it was a nice goal.
“It feels good to get to score and it’s even better if that helped to get a win for the team.”
The midfielder was understandably pleased, as the Independence knocked off an elite MLS team.
“It’s nice and you feel good because MLS is the top division in this country. You always want to play with the best teams that you possibly can,” Herrera said. “And if you get the chance to beat them it’s always good. I think that the guys put together a really nice 90 minutes. We scored, we were able to hold the win. At the end we get what we were trying tonight.”
Gilstrap, who made his first appearance since coming in on loan from the Carolina Railhawks, made two saves on the night. His inclusion was badly needed for the Independence.
John Berner was hurt in their last Open Cup game against Carolina and he’s out for about six weeks said Charlotte coach Mike Jeffries.
“The Reader’s Digest version is that we transferred our guy that was the No. 2 like two days before Berner got hurt,” he said. “So we’ve been forced to kind of bring in a call-up and deal with it that way.
“Hunter’s been with us, you know he was in with us in training. It was always the plan, from a while ago, to have him in for this. It wasn’t a late scratch, we knew it. He came up big on the play that we needed him.”
Jeffries went on to mention the pressure put on his team by New England at the end of the second half.
“He [Gilstrap] made the one great save and we managed to get in front of a lot of balls and block balls and so forth, and limit it to a lot of crosses, which we were able to handle for the most part,” Jeffries said.
With Charlotte being a new USL franchise, the Open Cup victory over New England is easily the best ever result for the team.
“It’s very special. Really for the players, we have a good group of guys. A lot of them have been sort of on the cusp of MLS, and in and out. I think for those guys especially those are meaningful games,” Jeffries said. “To say ‘hey I know I belong and I’m good.’ For us as a franchise obviously it’s a great win, and it’s a nice toehold for being the first year.
“To be able to do that and to beat a very good New England team up here is a real plus for us and a real big confidence boost.”
FULL MATCH REPLAY: CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE AT NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION