The season finale kicked off at 7:30 pm at the Sportsplex in Matthews between the two rivals. During the first few minutes the teams sparred at midfield and action expanded as the game began to open up.
Then suddenly the Independence defense was beaten inside the box and Daniel Rios would score on an easy goal opportunity to beat goalkeeper Brandon Miller for a 1-0 North Carolina lead. Then just one minute later veteran Jorge Herrera, the ageless wonder would score to tie the score at 1-1 for Charlotte on an amazing “bicycle kick” he timed perfectly inside the box tallying his 12th goal of the season.
At the 87th minute forward Daniel Rios scored for North Carolina to give the visitors a 2-1 advantage. Again, a breakdown in the defense by the Independence giving the goalkeeper a slim chance to protect against another easy scoring opportunity on just one pass.
At the 90th minute in extra time Steve Miller scored when he easily beat the defense and slid past defender Donnie Smith to ice the game 3-1 for North Carolina FC who swept past Charlotte for the third time this season.
In the post game interview Independence head coach Mike Jeffries stated the following. “It’s a frustrating end of the season, which is probably emblematic of how some of the things have gone this year. I appreciate the guys energy and effort, what they put into the game, but the same things that plagued us throughout the year certainly showed up again tonight.”
Regarding Jorge Herrera’s spectacular goal, “it was unbelievable, one of those things that you think about in the moment and go for it,” said Herrera. “When I turned around and the ball was in the back of the net, I was like, wow, what just happened.”
This reporter asked Herrera who now has 64 career goals in his illustrious USL career is only three goals shy of tying the current record of 67 goals held by Dane Kelly. Will he be returning next season? “I would love to play one more year,” said Herrera. “I felt great this season and I would love to come back.”
The Independence finished the season with a mediocre record of 10-10-12 for a total of 42 points. The organization will have to make key decisions during the off season on some position players, team chemistry, the nucleus core group of players and especially upon improving their defense to become a playoff contender in 2019.