Enzo Martinez had the best statistical performances of his professional soccer career when he was playing for the Charlotte Independence of the United Soccer League Championship.
From 2015 through 2017, Martinez made 87 appearances with the club, tallying 31 goals and 14 assists. The attacking midfielder was twice a finalist for the USL MVP award, twice made the All-USL First Team and was the runner-up for the league’s Golden Boot in 2017.
After a year away from Charlotte — in which he played in Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids — Martinez has returned. The club announced last week that it signed Martinez to a deal for the 2019 season, pending league and federation approval.
In a statement released from the club, Martinez sounded more than happy to be back in the Queen City.
“This is my home,” Martinez said. “I’m happy to be back and be able to wear that jersey again this year. I’m bringing the same mentality as I did when I first came here. I want to do everything I can for this club. I want to win, I want people to enjoy our games, people to cheer for us and leave knowing that their players are representing them well.”
— Charlotte Independence (@CLTIndependence) December 20, 2018
Martinez, 28, was a serviceable player for the Rapids in 2018, but struggled to find the back of the net. He played in 25 matches, two of which were in the Concacaf Champions League, and notched three assists. He did not score.
Although he was born in Uruguay, Martinez grew up not far from Charlotte, just over the state border in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Martinez went on to play his college soccer in Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina and helped the Tar Heels win a College Cup in 2011.
“Bringing Enzo back home was our top offseason priority,” Independence general manager Mike Jeffries said in a statement. “Not only are we returning a two-time USL MVP candidate and a top USL scorer, but a great person and leader. Enzo is part of the heart and soul of the Independence – his passion on the field amplifies his teammates’ play and his belief in building the success of the Independence is unparalleled.”
After his college career at UNC, Martinez was the 17th overall selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake. He never appeared in a league match with the club though and was loaned to the Carolina RailHawks, the club based in Cary, North Carolina now known as North Carolina FC. He played an addition season with the RailHawks and then joined the Charlotte Independence ahead of their inaugural season in 2015.
Martinez’s older brother Alex also plays for the Independence. Typically playing in the left midfield, he’s played in 91 matches with the USL side since 2015, notching seven goals and 12 assists.
“The club is going through the process of building something people are proud of and I want to be a part of that,” said Martinez. “In 10 years, when I come to the stadium with my kids, and there are 20,000 people and there’s a great soccer atmosphere and I’m sitting there enjoying the game, want to say to myself, ‘I played a little part of it.’ It’s exciting for anyone to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Martinez and the Independence will open their 2019 season at home on March 15 against the Indy Eleven under the direction of new head coach Jim McGuinness.