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USL Review: Charlotte signs Open Cup hero from Florida Soccer Soldiers

Valentin Sabella helped the Soccer Soldiers pull off a historic upset against the Charlotte Independence. Now he’s going to be playing for the USL club.

If you can’t beat them, pay them.

That’s the route the Charlotte Independence took when it signed Valentin Sabella to his first professional contract last week.

The 19-year-old was playing with the UPSL’s Florida Soccer Soldiers, a semi-pro side that pulled off an upset against Charlotte in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup, beating the Independence on penalty kicks earlier this season. That was largely due to some late-game heroics from Sabella, who picked off a backpass in the 119th minute, then danced around Charlotte’s keeper and a defender before slotting home the equalizer to force penalties.

“We knew our win would make some noise, but we didn’t know it was going to be as big as it turned out to be,” Sabella said in a statement. “It’s kind of crazy. But now that I’m in Charlotte, I’m here to give my best for the Independence.”

Sabella grew up in Miami, Florida and attended MAST Academy in Biscayne. He says he had several Division I offers to play soccer in college, but he instead opted to play with the Soccer Soldiers while taking classes at Florida International University.

“I knew I wanted to go to a big-time school,” Sabella said. “I wanted to go to a Division I school, for sure, and I did have DI offers and I waited until June to hear from some of the programs. But then some of the coaches didn’t choose me for whatever reason. Luckily, they didn’t, because everything turned out according to my plan.”

Sabella will wear kit No. 11 with the Independence. He was in the matchday 18, but did not see any playing time in Charlotte’s most recent contest, a 0-0 draw with Swop Park Rangers on Saturday.

Charlotte has just one win in its first 14 league matches. The club fired head coach Jim McGuinness on Wednesday.

Things to know

  • Reno 1868 FC lost 3-2 to San Antonio FC on Saturday, but the result is noteworthy because it marked the first professional goal scored for 15-year-old Cade Cowell. He is a homegrown talent for the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS, but is playing on loan with Reno. The 5-foot-9 forward is a native of Ceres, California and is San Jose’s youngest homegrown signing ever. He has featured with the U.S. national team’s U16 and U17 sides.
  • Jerome Kiesewetter joined El Paso Locomotive in mid-April, but he’s making a real run at the Championship’s Golden Boot. The German-American scored his fourth brace in the last five weeks this past weekend, leading El Paso to a 3-0 win over LA Galaxy II. He has nine goals this season, which is tied for the second most in the Championship. The 26-year-old has two caps with the U.S. men’s national team and previously played for three clubs in Germany.
  • It took 14 games, but the Tampa Bay Rowdies finally suffered a loss. North Carolina FC went down to Al Lang Stadium last Saturday and beat the Rowdies 3-1 behind a brace from NCFC Academy product Dre Fortune. The goal Fortune scored in the 19th minute was assisted by Nazmi Albadawi – who the club recently re-acquired – and was the first Tampa had conceded in 548 minutes, a streak going back to April 27. Steven Miller scored his fourth goal of the season in the win as well. On the other end, Alex Tambakis tallied six saves. Before Saturday’s loss, Tampa had conceded just four goals in its previous 13 Championship contests. The Rowdies remain in the top spot in the Eastern Conference, while NCFC moved into fourth place. The win is NCFC’s fourth on the road, a mark it didn’t hit until Sept. 16 last season.
  • In other North Carolina FC news, forward Marios Lomis will be out for an extended period of time. The club said that Lomis broke his left ankle during a training session in late May, and recently had surgery to repair it. The club said that Lomis will return to his native Netherlands to continue his recovery. A 24-year-old forward, Lomis had six goals and an assist in 11 appearances with NCFC this season.
  • In League One, Lansing Ignite FC assistant coach Tim Daniels has been suspended for one game after his dismissal from the technical area during Lansing’s contest with Toronto FC II on June 8. Daniels will not be on the sidelines when Lansing faces Greenville Triumph SC this Saturday.


  • The Houston Dynamo of MLS announced Monday that it had signed forward Michael Salazar from the Championship’s Rio Grande Valley FC. A 26-year-old from Belize, Salazar had scored eight goals in 12 matches for the Toros so far this season, which set a single season record for the most by one player in the club’s four-year history. Salazar has previously played in MLS with the Montreal Impact.

Watch this

17-year-old D.C. United homegrown Griffin Yow shows off here.

This, from Adam Jahn, was pretty nice.




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