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Scheer, Independence produce epic rally, advance to Academy Playoffs Semifinals

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 12/08/23, 5:03PM EST


Captain’s stoppage-time winner sent Charlotte through against defending title-holder Tampa Bay United

The Charlotte Independence celebrate during their comeback victory against Tampa Bay United in the Quarterfinals of the 2023 USL Academy League Playoffs on Friday. | Photo courtesy Emily Sullivan / United Soccer League

TAMPA, Fla. – The Charlotte Independence had already found one late goal through Braden Gritz to pull level with defending USL Academy League Playoffs title holder Tampa Bay United in Friday’s Quarterfinal round at the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay.

For captain Isaac Scheer, though, finding another – and avoiding extra time – was front of mind as he stood over a free kick on the left flank in stoppage time.

“I heard there’s two 10 minutes extra times, I was like, ‘we got to end this in regular time. I’m way too tired to do 20 more minutes,’” said Scheer. “Got a free kick with 30 seconds left and then, I mean, there’s no better feeling than that. No better feeling than that last-minute winner.”

Scheer’s delivery wasn’t met by any of his teammates in the penalty area, but its trajectory carried it into the right corner of the net, setting off wild celebrations both then and at the final whistle as the Independence pulled off a 2-1 victory and stayed in contention for the title.

“I’m just hitting it there, someone hits it, then it’s good, but they’re all running and the goalie thinks they’re going to hit it,” said Scheer. “I’ll take whatever I can get with a minute left. It’s not about skill at that point. I’ll take any luck I can get with that time left.”

While Scheer’s decisive finish on Friday might have been partly good fortune, for Independence Head Coach Jeff Bilyk, it also stands as a reward for a player who has been one of the club’s top prospects this year. The 18-year-old, who is set to play collegiately for West Virginia University next fall, has trained regularly with the Independence’s First Team, and was part of the gameday roster in USL League One.

“Isaac is a tremendous ambassador for the club in all he’s done, in the hard work that he puts in,” said Bilyk. “Couldn’t have more deserving player, just because I know how hard he’s worked to get there, and to have those opportunities with the First Team, and then to come on in a big stage and give us the game winner. That’s what he does.

“I’m proud of him and all that work shows and pays off for everybody. All of our younger kids in the academy see it. You put in the work, those are the type of things that happen.”

“Playing with those guys, like, you just get a lot of knowledge from them because they've been around for longer,” added Scheer. “The pace of play is so much higher. So, you come in, play here and you feel so ready.”

Scheer and the Independence will face San Antonio FC in Saturday’s Semifinals at 12 p.m. ET with a chance to advance to the Final. After Charlotte’s successful run to the Final of the 2023 League One Playoffs, the Academy side is hoping to emulate that success.

“This is why we love it, we hate it, it’s an emotional roller coaster, but I’m so proud of our group,” said Bilyk. “We talk about that all year, about having a resiliency, a never-quit attitude, and they showed that today. To go down a goal with six minutes left and fight themselves back into winning at the death, I couldn’t ask any more from them. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“What a performance from the fellas, and now moving on into the Semifinals.”

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