Alex and Enzo Martinez signed with the Charlotte Independence pro soccer team in part to have the chance to play closer to their hometown of Rock Hill. They probably didn’t expect to play in Rock Hill.
The Independence will play its May 8 USL league game at Winthrop, versus the Richmond Kickers.
“It’s special for both us,” Alex said Monday at Winthrop where the game was announced.
The Independence, in its first year after taking the Charlotte Eagles’ place in USL, is still without a permanent home. The franchise is awaiting completion of a temporary stadium at the Ramblewood Soccer Complex in south Charlotte. Independence general manager Tom Engstrom said the team hopes to be in the Ramblewood stadium for the June 13 game against Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
“It’s a company that builds temporary facilities, so when you think of tennis tournaments and golf tournaments, that’s what they’re doing,” said Engstrom. “They can put everything up quickly, so it’s just going through the final touches on permitting and all that.”
In the meantime, the Independence – still looking for the franchise’s first win four games into the season – will play in front of some of its southernmost fans. The Charlotte Eagles, for whom Engstrom was the general manager for a number of years, played at least 10 times at Winthrop during their tenure as a USL Pro team, most recently hosting the Chicago Fire in a U.S. Open Cup game in 2013.
“It’s great to play at Winthrop, it’s such a nice stadium, nice field, the crowd is just really close to the field, and the community has always been good at supporting us,” said Engstrom.
Winthrop coach Rich Posipanko was delighted to get the Independence down to South Carolina for a game that will also heavily involve the Kickin’ It Challenge, a local soccer tournament and auction that raises money to help local women with various facets of coping with breast cancer.
“Hopefully, it’s gonna be a pretty big draw, and the fact that you’ve got two local guys playing is gonna be a big plus,” Posipanko said Monday afternoon. “That should draw a big crowd.”
Enzo Martinez said he and his brother have already started propositioning teammates for their extra complimentary tickets. It will be Enzo’s first competitive game in Rock Hill since he was playing with the Discoveries club team over five years ago. Enzo has played in all four Independence games this spring, with two starts and a goal.
Alex has played at Winthrop’s field, winning 3-1 with High Point in 2010. He’s started the last three games for Charlotte, with no goals or assists yet.
“In the Charlotte area we’ve had a lot of people actually come up from this area that are pretty familiar with Enzo and Alex,” said Engstrom. “So for them to play in their backyard here I think will be a special night.”
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T
Watch the Martinez brothers May 8 at Winthrop
Tickets will be available at CharlotteIndependence.com/tickets/