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Condon’s thunderbolt sends Independence into Academy Final

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 12/09/23, 3:23PM EST


20-yard volley proved decisive as Charlotte rallied for 3-1 victory against San Antonio FC

The Charlotte Independence's Liam Condon celebrates his 20-yard volley that proved the winner against San Antonio FC in the Semifinals of the 2023 USL Academy League Playoffs. | Photo courtesy Emily Sullivan / United Soccer League

TAMPA, Fla. – The beauty of a playoff is on any given day, the player that proves the difference-maker might surprise you.

On Saturday afternoon, as the Charlotte Independence took on San Antonio FC in the Semifinal of the 2023 USL Academy League Playoffs at the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay, it was Liam Condon’s turn.

With the game level eight minutes into the second half, the Independence were on the front foot and had won a corner kick from the left. An in-swinging delivery was punched clear by SAFC goalkeeper Brandon Gongora at the near post to the top of the penalty area, where Condon was waiting.

The 17-year-old returned the clearance, with interest.

A stunning volley from 20 yards ripped into the top-left corner of the net, leaving the Independence’s players jubilant, and SAFC stunned.

A third goal by Ryan Seitz with 14 minutes to go wrapped up a 3-1 victory for the Independence, and a place in Sunday’s Final against Orange County SC.

“A message we gave to the group this morning, we're going to need everybody,” said Charlotte Head Coach Jeff Bilyk. “Liam’s a guy that that maybe wasn't in the Starting 11 the last three days, but a guy that we have full faith and trust in. The message was when you come into the game, make an impact, and my Lord, did he make an impact. An absolute bomb of a second goal, and it couldn’t be a more deserving of a kid.”

“It’s a great environment to score in,” added Condon. “I mean, that’s best I could have done.”

For a second consecutive outing, the Independence had to rally. San Antonio opened the game brightly as their pressing put Charlotte under pressure and in the 22nd minute it found the lead. A move into the right flank gave Izaiah Garza space to cross, and he picked out Eduardo Fernandez at the back post for a close-range finish.

The Independence began to come into the game as the first half went on, however, and struck back a minute before the halftime break. An incisive move on the left side Parker Sarvis move into the channel and deliver a cutback cross that Joshua Moore tucked home at the near post.

“[San Antonio] took it to us to start the game,” said Bilyk. “We didn’t start well, they were better. They were on the front foot. They deserved the goal. But like this group did yesterday, great teams find a way. I think the goal right before halftime settled us and gave us a little bit of confidence. And once we got back into the game, I thought the second half we looked like a different group.”

Moore almost had a second early in the second half, only for his headed finish off a corner to hit a teammate in an offside position in the six-yard area, while Isaac Scheer also had an effort saved. After Setiz’s finish off Braden Gritz’s knockdown in the center of the penalty area, however, the Independence saw out the result in solid fashion.

“I mean, this game was good game, but it all comes down to the next game,” said Condon. “And we’re just going to keep going, keep fighting until the final whistle.”

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