top of page

Charlotte Independence 2023 Home Opener

By Jacob Sokol

American Legion Memorial Stadium (image courtesy of Edifice)


Five months have passed since Charlotte Independence played their last regular season match at American Legion Memorial Stadium. Going into that game, the team needed a win to qualify for the 2022 playoffs. It was a thrashing, with five goals for Charlotte against NCFC’s one.  The win sent them on to face Tormenta, where they wrapped their season up with a disappointing 2-1 loss. A questionable penalty kick was awarded to Tormenta in the 77th minute, ultimately proving to be the game winner. 


With a new year brings a new season. Charlotte Independence will host Richmond Kickers on opening day as a reshaped team. Several players who were relied upon last year are no longer on the squad. Dane Kelly, known for his goal scoring abilities, rejoins Charlotte this season after a stint with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. This reshaped squad will face a Richmond side who finished in first place during the 2022 regular season. An opening day win could prove a tough task. 


Who is in? Who is out? 

Charlotte Independence's Dane Kelly returns for a second stint with the club (image courtesy of IndyStar)


Last season, Charlotte Independence and Charlotte FC loaned a few players to one another. This exchange worked well for both teams as Charlotte FC needed depth in their inaugural season while Charlotte Independence could use a higher level of player when available. 

Quinn McNeill, Chris Hegardt, Koa Santos, and Adrian Zendejas have all moved on after playing essential roles in the 2022 campaign. 


While these positions will likely be replaced by players already on the team, there were a few promising additions to the team in the last few weeks. Just this week, USL Championship defender, Avionne Flanagan and goalie Noah Abrams were signed, which should help provide stability to a back line that was second to last in goals against in 2022.


The big addition this off-season though is the return of Kelly. Kelly is an accomplished goal scorer, netting 11 goals in 25 games in 2021 and 10 goals in just 13 games in 2020 for The Jacks. While these new players have the quality to replace those exiting, it is questionable if they will have time to gel as a team as they join so close to the start of the season. 


Key Players 


Kelly was once the top goalscorer in the USL Championship, a league above USL League One. Now returning to Charlotte after playing with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Kelly should provide considerable firepower to the Independence attack. Watching him link up with Gabriel Obertan, Tresor Mbuyu, Khori Bennett, and Omar Ciss should end with a lot of goal scoring opportunities. 


Mbuyu scored all 11 of his goals last season from inside the box, which made him tied for the League's sixth top goal scorer with another Independence standout, Bennett. With the help of Obertan, Kelly, and Bennett, it is possible his tallies could increase this season. It is also possible he will be providing more assists, than last year’s five, with Kelly up top. Mbuyu has been known to play lethal balls into the box for other players to finish. Overall he’s one of Charlotte’s most versatile attacking options.  

Tresor Mbuyu (image courtesy of theCharlottepost.com)


Obertan has been a player to watch since he signed with Charlotte Independence. The former Manchester United player has a skill set above and beyond many in USL League One. He can strike blistering shots, as seen in their playoff defeat to Tormenta where he scored the opener from outside the goal box. He can also flick or lay off passes with precision and purpose that often lead to opportunities. Even at 34 years of age, Obertan is arguably the most exciting player on the pitch. 


Bronico (13) and Obertan (32) two seasons ago (image courtesy of Charlotte Independence)


Previous Results


Charlotte Independence found themselves facing off against Richmond on three separate occasions last year. With one tie and two losses in those three matchups, the Jacks will be hoping for better this Saturday. Home field advantage will provide a necessary boost, but it may not be enough. 


Richmond is a team with few weaknesses. They not only scored more than any other team in the league last season, but they also let in the fewest goals. Their most potent striker, Emiliano Terzaghi, led the league in goals last season with 17. Charlotte will catch a break though with the departure of Johnathan Bolanos from Richmond this year as he heads to MLS Next Pro side, Huntsville City FC. Bolanos was a midfielder with an expertise in distribution, dishing out 11 assists last season to lead the league. 

Emiliano Terzaghi (image courtesy of USLleagueone.com)


Overall with an aggregate score of 7-2 in their last three meetings, Charlotte is aware that they have work ahead of them. It is possible to pull out a draw or better, but there would likely be a dash of luck involved. You can see the game at American Legion Memorial Stadium in downtown Charlotte, NC on Saturday, March 18th at 5pm. Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket window. The first 200 fans to show up to the game will receive a mini soccer ball.