Independence Weather the Storm and Earn 3 Points at FC Tucson

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TUCSON, AZ – The Charlotte Independence battled through a lengthy weather delay to beat FC Tucson 3-2 on the road Saturday, July 23 at Kino North Stadium.

“It has been a long stretch of mostly road games since we had that long stretch at home at the beginning of the season, ” Charlotte Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries said. “We’ll do the best we can to physically recover from two long trips on weekends, and we’ll definitely be excited to be back at American Legion Memorial Stadium.”

It only took four minutes for the Jacks to take the lead through #6 Omar Ciss’ second goal of the season. After collecting a pass from #13 Chris Hegardt, Ciss turned into space outside the top of the penalty area and buried a shot in the left corner of the net.

“I am so happy for these guys because they played so great and have been working really hard in training all week,“ Hegardt said. “Coming home with 3 points on an away trip feels great. This result pushes us back up the table, and we are ready to keep working for more.”

Tucson answered quickly with a goal in the 12th minute by #2 Donny Toia who headed home a cross from #12 Tyler Allen on the back post. Tucson took the lead 2-1 in the 19th minute as #5 Kaelon Fox headed in a corner kick.

Hegardt earned his second assist of the night as he fed a cross into the path of #11 Tresor Mbuyu who launched a diving header into the back of the net to tie the scoreline in the 37th minute. It was Mbuyu’s seventh goal of the USL League One campaign.

“This was a huge win on the road for the team. To come back from being down 2-1 and then getting the winning goal after a long weather delay shows a lot about the fight in our group,” Mbuyu said. “We are going to take the momentum and look forward to our next game at home.”

The teams entered halftime tied: Charlotte Independence 2 – FC Tucson 2.

The Independence jumped on the attack quickly after Tucson misplaced a pass into #90 Khori Bennett’s path only seconds into the half, but his shot was pushed wide.

#30 Adrian Zendejas made multiple crucial saves to keep the score level and allow the Independence to continue searching for the breakthrough.

The chances continued to flow for the Jacks as #24 Grayson Barber set up Hegardt with a pass across the penalty area in the 76th minute, but Hegardt’s shot was saved. Four minutes later, Hegardt launched a long ball over the Tucson defense, finding #56 Gabriel Obertan who had the ball swept away from his feet by the Tucson goalkeeper.

In the 81st minute, the match entered a weather delay due to lightning in the area. After nearly two hours, the match resumed.

“There was a lot of uncertainty whether we’d be able to get the game in. So, it’s just a question of making sure they stay ready and focused and stay loose physically and in-tune with the game mentally,” Jeffries said. “The guys did a good job and came out well for that 10 minutes at the end.”

The break was no issue for the Jacks as Hegardt scored his first goal for the Independence almost immediately after play restarted with a central shot in the 83rd minute.

The game finished in favor of the Jacks: Charlotte Independence 3 – FC Tucson 2.