MATTHEWS, N.C. (WBTV) - The 2020 season started with a win for the Charlotte Independence and then the pandemic hit.
“I think everyone thought it was going to be two weeks,” said Independence captain Enzo Martinez. “Two weeks or three weeks at home, then it’s back to it.”
But it was way more that just 2 weeks. It ended up being 108 days of not knowing. Frustrating to everyone but really frustrating for professional athletes as father time is undefeated.
“Our days are counted on the field,” said Martinez. “We’re limited to how long we can play for so every week that you lose due to injury or a situation like this hurts because you just want to be out there playing and doing what you love.”
Now they are back on the pitch with 15 games left in the regular season. Those contest will be against teams in the southeast to cut down on travel due to the pandemic. Opponents include Miami, Memphis, North Carolina FC, Birmingham, and Charleston and head coach Mike Jeffries says, this is not a bad thing.
“When you play the same team four times within two months, there will definitely be intense games,” said coach. “It will develop rivalries which will carry on to future years. It will be interesting because we will play some teams, three times in a month and that usually makes for intense games.”
While it would be nice to travel the country and play in different stadiums, at this point, the players don’t care who they play or how many times they play them. They are just thrilled to be back, playing the game they love.
“They call it the beautiful game,” said Martinez. “Once you get out there to play, the world stops. It’s just you, the ball, your team mates and it’s an amazing mentality to be in.”
The Independence first game back will be a road contest at Miami on July 22nd. One thing coach worries about is the energy of his team. He knows there won’t be a lack of it, but he just hopes they can control their excitement.
“There’s going to be a lot of pent up energy that comes out in the first 10 minutes,” said coach. “These are guys that love to compete. We certainly don’t want to take away their enthusiasm and energy, but they are smart enough guys to realize that the first game back, it’s going to be really hard to manage 90 minutes. Like in preseason, you have five, six games to build up to 90 minutes. We haven’t had that and it’s going to be a stretch. As much as they are enjoying kicking each other pretty regularly, I think they are looking forward to having somebody else to get after.”
The Independence first home game will be July 29th when they host North Carolina FC.