As the Charlotte Independence gets its home field in Matthews, N.C. squared away, Winthrop will again serve as the pro soccer club’s temporary home for a couple of games over the next three months.
The Independence will play April 15, May 11 and June 4 at Eagle Field, before taking up residence at the Matthews Sportsplex in mid-June. Independence general manager Tom Engstrom said there is also the possibility of U.S. Open Cup games at Winthrop prior to the Matthews move.
The Independence has four players connected to Rock Hill - Alex and Enzo Martinez, who were born in Uruguay but grew up in the city and still live here, Henry Kalungi, a former Winthrop soccer standout, and Kyle Renfro, who now coaches Winthrop’s goalkeepers when he’s not a backup goalie for the pro team in Charlotte.
“We definitely wouldn’t be opposed to having it there every time,” said Alex Martinez. “I love playing at home, it’s something that’s so close to our heart. I grew up in Rock Hill and if you told me growing up that I was going to play a professional game in Rock Hill I would tell you you’re a bit crazy. But we’re extremely excited.”
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The club will use a public training session Monday, April 10 at Manchester Meadows to promote the Winthrop home games. Monday’s practice will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7 and fans are encouraged to attend. They can meet and mingle with players and coaches afterward, get autographs and win prizes.
“Charlotte and Rock Hill, they’re kind of in the same area, so we are hometown players,” said Kalungi. “Playing back in our home community gives us an extra boost. It makes us have a feeling that we are home, that we have to fight for our home turf.”
Tickets for Independence games at Winthrop
The Charlotte Indpendence will play the Pittsburgh Riverhounds April 15, New York Red Bulls II May 11 and the Tampa Bay Rowdies June 4 at Winthrop’s Eagle Field. Tickets cost $15 each, or $10 each for groups of 10 or more, and can be purchased at CharlotteIndependence.com or by calling 704-206-1515.