Coach Weekley and the Chattanooga Red Wolves played host to the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night in front of a raucous home crowd at CHI Memorial Stadium in a match that had massive implications for the USL League One Playoffs. In a must win match surrounded by a near festival-like atmosphere, the Red Wolves struck first in the tenth minute as the magic man himself Moe Espinoza latched onto a ball on the outside of the box and hit an absolutely stunning left footed volley that was unstoppable to put the hosts ahead 1-0.
Four minutes later, some ridiculous footwork from Espinoza lead to Jose Carrera-Garcia taking a strike from distance, with his effort going mesmerizingly close but just inches over the bar. Timmy Mehl would make himself known in the match ten minutes later after a bit of back-and-forth action from both sides, the center back positioned himself well and cut out a fizzing Charlotte strike at goal to keep the Red Wolves ahead.
Despite an excellent opening thirty minutes from the hosts, Charlotte would strike to tie it up in the 28th minute. Carlos Avilez would make a big stop to deny Christopher Hegardt in goal, but the save would take a fortunate bounce for the Independence with Tresor Mbuyu on hand to slot home the rebound to level the contest at 1-1.
The 35th minute would see a big chance for Ivan Gutierrez as the Red Wolves broke viciously with numbers in transition. Rafa Mentzingen did well to get the ball to Gutierrez and his strike went just wide with the score line remaining 1-1. The Red Wolves would keep the intensity high inside CHI Memorial Stadium for the last ten minutes of the half, but the sides would go into the half level at 1-1.
Coach Weekley would make a double change to start the second half, bringing on Juan Galindrez and Josue España in place of Ryley Kraft and Ivan Gutierrez. Three minutes into the half, Carrera-Garcia would play a great corner kick into the box placing it right on the head of Timmy Mehl who headed home with authority to put the hosts ahead 2-1 and send the crowd into a frenzy.
The Red Wolves would control the second half into the 65th minute, when Moe Espinoza struck the post via a cross, with the deflection nearly being tapped in by Mentzingen if not for a heads-up defensive effort from the Independence. The hosts would seize the momentum in a big way in the 68th minute, as Jose Carrera-Garcia and Timmy Mehl once again linked up beautifully on a corner kick. Mehl’s header went looping towards goal and Juan Galigol Galindrez was on hand to head home the effort and put the Red Wolves well in the driver’s seat at 3-1.
Charlotte struggled to break down a resolute Red Wolves defense, but the hosts would concede a penalty late on in the 87th minute. Hegardt stepped up to take and Avilez made a massive stop that was met with a roar from the crowd to all but secure a massive three points. Pedro Hernandez and Jorge Paez came on late to help see out the match, and the Red Wolves would see out the game to win 3-1. The three points moves the club into fourth place in the league, and four points clear of the playoff line with only two matches to go in the USL League One season.