CARY, N.C. – The Charlotte Independence earned a 1-0 victory against North Carolina FC on Saturday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in a game that saw both Charlotte’s Dane Kelly and North Carolina’s Nazmi Albadawi sent off as both teams finished with 10 men.
Aiming to close the gap to the Independence in the Group G standings, North Carolina created the first real look at goal in the 17th minute as a chipped central free kick by Dre Fortune found Conor Donovan, but the center back wasn’t able to get enough purchase or direction on his header to seriously trouble Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller.
NCFC forward Marios Lomis also had a go from 20 yards nine minutes later that was swallowed up by Miller, while the Independence’s Kelly threatened a minute later with a first-time shot off a low cross from the left by Jake Areman that went just wide of the left post after the Jamaican had peeled away from his marker.
Kelly was dismissed with two minutes to go in the first half, however, as he was shown a red card after a strong challenge on North Carolina’s D.J. Taylor. The challenge brought the two sides together, and in the aftermath NCFC’s Albadawi and Charlotte’s Enzo Martinez and Miller were also shown yellow cards.
Despite being down a man to start the second half, the Independence almost grabbed the lead two minutes after the break as Derek Gebhard broke forward onto a ball by Areman only to send his finish wide of the right post as NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis came off his line to challenge.
In the 51st minute, though, the visitors took the lead as Areman delivered a perfect free kick from the left channel that invited Aaron Maund to put home a powerful header from the right side of the penalty area.
North Carolina tried to get back on level terms seven minutes later but Manny Perez headed wide of the left post after getting on the end of a cross from the left by Akeem Ward. The Independence then almost doubled their lead as Gebhard curled a cross from the left in to the late-arriving Luke Haakenson only for his header to slide wide of the left post.
The hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 67th minute as Albadawi received his second yellow card of the game for obstructing Brunallergene Etou as he looked to break forward from midfield, but still managed to find chances to try and level. With 15 minutes to go a poor defensive header by Charlotte’s Maund in his own penalty area gave Taylor a chance that he curled just wide of the left post, while a few minutes later Robbie Kristo fired a long-range effort that was smothered by Miller at the left post.
The Independence were able to see out the remaining minutes, however, as they took another big step toward the postseason while extending the gap to 11 points between themselves and their in-state rivals.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Aaron Maund, Charlotte Independence – Maund scored the lone goal of the game, won 6 of 8 duels, 5 of 7 aerial duels and made 12 clearances to help the Independence to a big road victory.