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Herrera volando alto para la Independencia

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - Esta dirección electrónica esta protegida contra spam bots. Necesita activar JavaScript para visualizarla


Photo courtesy Brett Hansbauer / FC Cincinnati

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s been a decade since Jorge Herrera first arrived in Charlotte, but now at the age of 36 the Colombian forward has never had quite a season as the one he’s having for the Charlotte Independence.

With 12 goals, already a regular-season high, and five assists, Herrera has helped fuel the Independence’s drive toward the top of the USL’s Eastern Conference standings ahead of Saturday’s game with Louisville City FC. The club is on a 10-game undefeated streak, aided by a 5-0-2 run through a month that most on the club believed would be key to a successful season.

“At the beginning of the season we knew July was going to be an important month for us,” said Herrera this week. “Looking at what we did throughout the month, I’m impressed and very proud of each person that we have on our team. I’m very excited and look forward to seeing where all this takes us at the end of the season.”

Herrera had a historic month personally as part of the club’s surge. With eight goals and two assists in seven games over the month, including the first hat trick in Independence history, Herrera became the second player in USL history to surpass 50 regular-season goals in the league’s history. He’s also in the hunt for the USL Golden Boot, sitting two goals back of current co-leaders Romario Williams of the Charleston Battery and Reno 1868 FC’s Dane Kelly.

As Herrera has thrived, his teammates have been thrilled to be part of the ride.

“I think I speak for the whole team when I say that everyone is so happy for Jorge,” said Independence teammate Enzo Martinez. “For the three years I have been with the Independence, Jorge has never complained about anything, ever. You have a guy that has had a career many of us wish for, he has played on top teams around the world. It doesn’t matter if he is playing every minute of the game or never steps on the field or if he is scoring every game or not; he shows up each day with the same attitude, no matter what. He is always the same positive person and I know that everyone on the team is very happy for the success he is having.”

While Herrera has taken the scoring spotlight this season, Martinez has maintained the level that earned him recognition as a finalist for the 2016 USL Most Valuable Player award. With nine goals and four assists, Martinez has continued to provide incisiveness in a Charlotte attack that has been prolific since a slow start to the season. Starting with the club’s 5-1 win against the New York Red Bulls II on May 11, the Independence have averaged 2.5 goals per game, scoring multiple goals in 10 of 13 games.

That record will be tested against Louisville, which has conceded the fewest goals of any side in the Eastern Conference this season as it enters the Sportsplex at Matthews for Saturday night’s contest (7 p.m. ET | Match Center). Having taken a 1-0 win against the Independence when they met at Slugger Field, the last defeat Charlotte suffered prior to its current run, Louisville is looking to jump past the Independence with another win.

That said, it’s a test Martinez is looking forward to on home turf.

“I think what makes them good is the same thing that makes us good,” said Martinez. “They have very good players and they all understand the way they want to play. I think it will be a great match because both teams will play out their own style and it will be a battle from start to finish.”

Should the Independence earn its fifth home win of the season, the side take a strong position in the race for first place in the Eastern Conference, and could start serious talk of replicating the Charlotte Eagles’ run to the 2013 USL Cup Final. As part of that team, Herrera sees similarities between that squad, which included the likes of San Antonio FC’s Ben Newnam and Minnesota United FC’s Christian Ramires, and his current teammates.

“The biggest similarity that I have found between both teams is that the groups understand that the team is more important than any individual,” said Herrera. “I believe that as long as you keep that in mind you will be a tough team to play against.”

As important as finishing top of the Eastern Conference at the end of the season could be, the Independence are making sure they take care of the day-to-day details that could lead the team there.

“Our focus is on our improvement as a team and what we could do to be better both individually and as a team,” said Herrera. “It is of course important to be at the top of our conference, but we keep our sights set on how we could be better every day.”






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