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Charlotte Independence 2017 USL season preview

Charlotte is a young and exciting team that will feel like they underachieved in 2016 and will want to improve this year.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Charlotte  Independence at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Year Founded: 2015

Affiliation: This is the third season for the Independence and the third season of being affiliated with the Colorado Rapids.

2016 record, place in Conference standings: 14-8-8, 5th in the Eastern Conference

2016 playoffs: Made the quarterfinals, but lost 3-1 on the road to the Rochester Rhinos.

Key additions: Zev Taublieb (M), Callum Ross (M), Jared Odenbeck (D), Luke Waechter (D)

Key departures: Overall, Charlotte is fairly intact going into 2017, but will feel the loss of Marlon Hairston, Caleb Calvert, Dominique Badji, and John Berner. (It should be noted that John Berner is injured right now and Cody Mizell is on loan with the Rapids from the Independence.)

Projected/ideal starting XI (formation): At this point, it is hard to predict a Starting XI with a bit of uncertainty with the squad. But they will be led by Jorge Herrera, Bilal Duckett, and Yann Ekra.

Charlotte is coming off their first ever playoff appearance in the team’s history and although it ended in disappointment, there is a lot to look forward to in 2017. Charlotte erased a lot of their road woes this past season and showed a great deal of promise, but still suffered from a lack of goals and focus at times. In addition, they lacked an ability to finish off games and that is something that will need to change in 2017.

Charlotte has been a great place for Rapids players to develop, and so far it looks like many of the Rapids players who have spent time in Charlotte may not be there in 2017. This is good and bad depending on your perspective. If you prescribe to the #OneClub philosophy, this is great as players such as Hairston, Badji, and Calvert have been called up to the Rapids, but bad for the Independence because they are losing key players.

The big change for Charlotte is they are moving out of Charlotte and will be playing in Matthews, NC. There are a number of reason for this, but this move is made with the future in mind--but it is a move from Ramblewood and it will be interesting to see how attendance goes.

Why you should watch the Independence in 2017

Charlotte is a young and exciting team that will feel like they underachieved in 2016, and will be looking to improve upon that this season. And with their parent club having such success, they will be looking to duplicate that level of success.

Three players to watch:

  1. Goalkeepers: Mizell is on loan with the Rapids, but John Berner is the Rapids #3. Who takes that position in Commerce City will dictate a lot of how the goalkeeping situation goes in Charlotte.
  2. Jorge Herrera: A captain on and off the field--the Independence will go as he goes.
  3. The Forward: Charlotte is not a high scoring team, and they will need to find that guy to help them get to where they want to be. Is that person on the roster now? I don't think so, but there is still time to find that talent.

The 2017 season will be a success if...

Ultimately, it comes down to two things: home support and road form. Charlotte struggled last year in home attendance with an average of under 1,400 per game. They suffered from a poor pitch and location, but ultimately it is about wins. Play well, and people will come out.

Charlotte has also historically struggled on the road. They were able to sneak a win or two against the bad teams, but couldn’t compete against the top level of USL. Fix these two things, and the Independence could be in line for a good season. Struggle on the road and at home, and it could be a long season in Charlotte.