HARTFORD, Conn. – Enzo Martinez notched a goal and assist to lead the Charlotte Independence to a 2-1 victory against Hartford Athletic on Thursday night in the USL on ESPN Game of the Week on ESPN Deportes as a late tally by Dane Kelly proved the winner coming a minute after the hosts had leveled the score inside the final 10 minutes at Dillon Stadium.
In need of victory to boost their postseason hopes, Hartford almost took the lead in the fifth minute as Luka Prpa received a pass from Danny Barrera as he moved into the left side of the penalty area and produced a shot that was deflected by his marker and then clawed away by Independence goalkeeper Austin Pack to the far side of the field.
The Independence settled into the game after the early scare, though, and after a pair of half-chances went astray the visitors took the lead as a neat passing sequence on the right opened a chance for Irvin Parra to cross for Martinez, whose attempt to backheel a shot home was blocked only for the ball to sit up nicely for the attacking midfielder to strike home a shot into the left corner of the net.
The visitors carved out another chance to add to their lead in the 27th minute as Adam Armour’s cutback cross from the left found Sylvain Marveaux for a first-time shot that went over the crossbar, but then Hartford began to create chances as first Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. played a clever pass that freed Preston Tarbort Etaka in the left side of the penalty area that gave him a chance to shoot, only for Pack to make another key save. Obregon then had a chance of his own two minutes later from the right side of the box, but that shot was also denied.
The Athletic threatened again six minutes before halftime as off a corner in the right an initial shot by Justin Haak was blocked by Charlotte’s Adam Armour before another effort caromed off Obregon and wide of the left post. Conor McGlynn also went close soon after with a first-time shot from the top of the penalty area that went just wide of the right upright, while a minute before the break Kelly forced a save from Hartford’s Jeff Caldwell with a turning shot as the visitors went to the break with a one-goal lead.
The hosts continued to push for an equalizer in the second half, and on the hour-mark a curling cross from the left channel by Barrera found Obregon for a close-range header near the right post that was parried wide by Pack. The Independence also went close with a header of their own four minutes later as Kelly’s near-post flick on a corner from the left by Martinez produced a sharp stop by Caldwell, while moments later Martinez drove into the left side of the penalty area and fired a low shot from a narrow angle the hit the post and caromed away.
Hartford also hit the woodwork with 21 minutes to go as Sebastian Elney snapped a shot off the left post after a cross from the left fell kindly for him in the penalty area, and the hosts went close against three minutes later as Puerto Rico international Nicolas Cardona’s header off Barrera’s free kick from the right was parried away well by Pack.
With eight minutes to go the breakthrough arrived for the Athletic as after being awarded a free kick on the right edge of the penalty area, a delivery by Barrera to the near post deflected off Independence midfielder Brandt Bronico and in for an own goal. A minute later, though, the Independence dashed hopes of a comeback as Kelly headed home a delivery by Martinez from the right into the bottom-left corner of the net to restore the lead for the visitors and the 96th regular-season goal of his career.
Charlotte was reduced to 10 men in the final minute as Armour was sent off after an altercation near the touchline as tempers became short, but the hosts were unable to take advantage as a header by El Salvador international Walmer Martinez was saved by Pack in stoppage time as the visitors saw out a crucial road victory.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence – Martinez had a goal and assist, finished the night with three shots and five key passes overall and completed 16 of 21 passes to lead the visitors to victory.
CLT – Enzo Martinez 12’
HFD – Brandt Bronico (Own Goal) 82’
CLT – Dane Kelly (Enzo Martinez) 83’