Match: Penn FC at Charlotte Independence
Date: Saturday, July 28th
Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m. Central, 4:30 p.m. Pacific, 11:30 p.m. UTC
Venue: Sportsplex at Matthews (Matthews, NC)
Refs: REF: JJ Bilinski AR1: Jordan Davis AR2: Ryan Graves 4TH: Gabriel Rivera
How to Watch: ESPN+ (Subscription Required)
How Charlotte will look: Charlotte has had their ups and downs so far this season, and they’re currently in the middle of a rough stretch. After reeling off a bunch of wins in May, Charlotte has struggled to play well at times. Their lone bright spot was their 1-0 victory over Nashville SC on July 11th. That win came at home, and Charlotte has generally played their best matches in Matthews (other than that one against the Tampa Bay Rowdies).
Charlotte’s biggest threat remains the ageless wonder Jorge Herrera who has managed ten goals in twenty one appearances so far this season. Right behind him is former San Jose Earthquake Cordell Cato who has scored eight times himself.
Harrisburg fans will want to tune in to see a few former City Islanders who are now playing for Charlotte. There’s last year’s goalkeeper Brandon Miller as well as a few old school Islanders like Bilal Duckett and Yann Ekra. Ekra and Duckett both played alongside current Penn FC player Lucky Mkosana back in the 2012 season.
How Penn FC will look: Penn FC turned their season around during the month of June as they put together a six match unbeaten stretch that put them into the playoff positions. Unfortunately they had a hard time continuing this form into July and they dropped matches against Richmond and Ottawa ahead of their bye week. Missing out on those points meant that they slipped back into being a playoff bubble team as they sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
Penn FC’s week off came at a great time as they were started to look a little beat up as they went into July. Hopefully that will allow some of the players to come back to the pitch closer to full fitness. In addition, watch for a new face to make an appearance as Penn FC anounced the signing of Walter Ramirez earlier this week. Ramirez last played for Puerto Rico FC in the NASL and he is familiar with head coach Raoul Voss from his time with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.
What to expect: This match has an unpredictable air to it because both of these teams have done a bit of a “Jekyll and Hyde” act at various points this season. Charlotte was as high as fourth or fifth in the East at one point, but now they’ve only got one win in their last ten matches. Penn FC was rising up the power rankings themselves, but they had a big regression against Richmond and Ottawa.
Both sides will take the pitch Saturday hoping to regain a bit of their magic from earlier in the season. For Penn FC that will mean jump starting their offense which stalled out a bit two weeks ago. Lucky Mkosana was on a hot streak as he managed seven goals in five matches, so expect them to try and light a fire under him again. For that to work, they’ll need players like Paulo Jr. and Richard Menjivar to step up and try to feed him more balls into the box. Alternatively, Ken Tribbett could add another goal or two from set pieces, like he has five times this season.
Charlotte will also need to call on their play makers to put Penn FC away early if possible. Jorge Herrera has scored plenty of goals against Harrisburg teams during his career, and it’d help Charlotte’s chances if he could add one or two more. If the Penn FC offense struggles again, then one or two goals may be all they need to get the win at home. If they get a lead, it may come down to former City Islander Brandon Miller to hang on for the win. However, it’s more likely that Andrew Dykstra gets the start as he has seventeen starts to Miller’s four.
PREDICTION: The outcome to this match will be determined based on which Penn FC team shows up. Will it be the energetic, high scoring side from most of June, or the less effective side that showed up for the last two matches? I think if Penn FC can score at least twice, that means they’re getting at least a point. If Charlotte’s defense can shut them down, then they’ll get the win at home.