By JEFF HERNDEN
After a couple matches away, I’m back and I’ve got ratings for an atypical match for this year’s Rowdies. It was another tough away match, but for seemingly the first time this season, the Rowdies actually played like the away team — ceding most of the possession and getting beat in almost every statistical category, except the most important one, goals scored. Following a disappointing US Open Cup loss at Miami FC and and tough league draw at home vs St. Louis, Coach Stuart Campbell started a strong squad, with the notable exceptions of Marcel Schäfer who was presumably rested after having played full minutes in every match during the brutal run of fixtures. Darnell King also missed the match as he served a suspension for yellow card accumulation. Defender Damion Lowe made the bench after serving his yellow card suspension. Schäfer and King were replaced in the lineup by Martin Vingaard and Kyle Porter, respectively, and both replacements performed well enough. Tamika Mkandawire also returned to the starting XI after showing strong performances in his last few appearances.
Given Charlotte’s position in the table, one might have expected the Rowdies to come out guns-blazing, but instead they showed respect to the Independence’s attacking quality, especially that of last year’s USL MVP finalist Enzo Martinez. Charlotte’s position in the standings is misleading as it had only lost one of its previous six matches and had five matches in hand over the Rowdies. The Independence is still in the thick of the Eastern Conference race.
Overall, Campbell got the tactics right. If not for two second half defensive lapses and Mkandawire having goals denied by the whistle and the post, the Rowdies could have come back home with three points in the bag. Thankfully substitute Keith Savage calmly deposited the equalizer when he found himself wide open and on the end of a Michael Nanchoff cross to cap off a great buildup sequence in the 84th minute.
Manager rating: 8/10 — Overall team rating: 7/10
Matt Pickens (GK): Solid as usual for Pickens. Couldn’t do much about either goal. Could have perhaps come out to claim the corner kick leading to Charlotte’s first goal. Would have liked to have seen him fire up and re-focus his defense following the goal. Player rating: 7/10
Luke Boden (LB):Good game for Boden. He is confident in defense and loves to get involved in the attack, contributing five crosses. With his high pass-success, crossing, and chance-creation hopefully Boden is beginning to solidify his spot in the defense. Player rating: 7/10
Neill Collins (CB):Hard to knock Collins because he’s a rock in the back. But like Campbell said, the Rowdies switched off in the back at the beginning of the second half, resulting in Charlotte’s two goals. A player of Collins’ experience should have his back four better organized, especially on a set piece. For the other 85 minutes, he was up to his usual standards, winning tackles and challenges and making interceptions. Player rating: 6.5/10
Tamika Mkandawire (CB): Seven interceptions to go along with an important second-half tackle that unfortunately rebounded straight to Charlotte goalscorer Dennis Castillo for the second goal. Also seemed to have lost his mark, which resulted in the first goal. Other than those two incidents, Tam defended well and contributed up front. His first-half goal should have stood and he nearly scored a game winner, hitting the post from a header in the dying seconds. An up and down night for Tam. Player rating: 6.5/10
Kyle Porter (RB): Quiet night defensively for Porter. Didn’t get involved in the attack and no standout moments, but also no glaring errors. Did his job defensively. Plenty of touches, however uninspiring. Expect King to return to the lineup next week vs the Battery. Player rating: 6/10
Michael Nanchoff (DM): Tonight’s man of the match. Nanchoff was easily the best player on the pitch for the Rowdies. He was creative, he defended, he brought energy, pace and attacking quality. He also provided the assist on Savage’s late equalizer. He put in seven crosses, created four chances, completed his passes at a rate of 84 percent and should have had a second assist with Tam’s disallowed goal from his corner. Based upon tonight’s performance, he should be starting alongside Schäfer in the midfield. The level of depth and competition between Nanchoff, Vingaard, Chavez, Savage, and Schäfer in midfield is a great sight to see. Player rating: 8/10
Martin Vingaard (DM, Subbed off 67′ – Savage): After an insane start to season where he was my man of the match in two of the first three matches, Vingaard has struggled for form of late. He is still a solid performer, but has been lacking real impact. For a holding midfielder to only have 30 touches, one tackle, one interception in 67 minutes, it means he’s not getting himself involved enough. Rightfully subbed off for Savage in the 67h minute. Player rating: 5/10
Leo Fernandes (LW, Subbed off 81′ – Brown): With Charlotte dominating possession, our midfield three were often unable to get much going offensively. As such, Fernandes put in a shift defensively and worked hard on both sides of the ball. Going forward he was at times dangerous and able to penetrate, including the run that led to Georgi’s penalty. Fernandes kept his shape and fit in to the overall game plan. Subbed late for Brown while the team pressed for the equalizer. Player rating: 7/10
© Joe Cole (CM): Similar to Fernandes, Cole wasn’t able to get too much going offensively. Most of his successful passes were lateral or negative, though he did have a few through balls in the final third. No shots and only one touch in the opponent’s box. He fit in to the overall match tactics, but he tired late and struggled to complete passes and dribbles in the final quarter-hour. Probably should have come off around the 75th minute. Player rating: 6.5/10
Darwin Jones (RW, Subbed off 62′ – Paterson): Not as exciting as we’ve seen him be over the past several matches. Wasn’t getting enough service, and when he did, he wasn’t able to complete his dribbles or put crosses in dangerous areas. Rightfully subbed in the 62nd minute for Paterson. Player rating: 6/10
Georgi Hristov (F): Lively, active and got himself involved despite a relative lack of service. Georgi managed seven touches in the opponent’s penalty area, but a poor first touch in the 17th minute cost him what should have been at least a shot on target, if not an excellent scoring chance. Solid finish for his penalty, but needed more individual brilliance and clinical finishing as he was the lone striker for much of the match. Player rating: 7/10
Martin Paterson (F, Subbed on 62′ – Jones): Came on as an early sub following Charlotte’s two tallies. Paterson always provides energy and intensity. This week he was able to get a shot on target and win a few fouls leading to dangerous set pieces, but he didn’t earn many dangerous chances for himself. Bringing Brown on as an earlier strike partner would have helped. Paterson won the late foul that nearly led to the last-second match winner. Player rating: 7/10
Keith Savage (DM, Subbed on 67′ – Vingaard): It’s no coincidence that the game began to change after Savage entered the match. He matched Vingaard in nearly all statistical categories despite playing less than one-third of the time. He worked hard, provided energy and seemed to have an impact on nearly every play defensively and going forward. He’s starting to assert himself in to the conversation for a potential first-off-the-bench, if not starting spot. His equalizing finish showed great composure. Player rating 7.5/10
Deshorn Brown (F, Subbed on 81′): Brown came on as a last-ditch effort to find the equalizer and, while he didn’t score it himself, his inclusion along with Paterson was able to occupy the Charlotte defense, opening up Savage for the late run to the penalty spot for his cool finish. Got in nine touches and two shots in his 8+ minutes of action. He seemed a bit rushed and over-enthusiastic with his back to goal late, electing to take a poor shot rather than lay it off. A little more composure at the end could have gone a long way. Player rating: 6/10