TAMPA, Fla. – USL League One today announced the Team of the Week for Week 18 of the 2022 regular season with Charlotte Independence forward Khori Bennett named Player of the Week. Netting the second-quickest hat trick in league history, Bennett scored three times in a convincing 4-0 victory over Central Valley Fuego FC.
“I’m elated,” Bennett shared. “The season has been up and down for the team and me. Tonight, as a group we put together a very good performance. My hat trick is a result of the group’s effort, so I’m very pleased.”
Bennett started the scoring by rising up to head down a long-distance Chris Hegardt cross in the 39th minute. Less than 10 minutes later, Bennett doubled the Independence lead in first-half stoppage time with a special strike, juking out a defender before sending it to the far post with an off-balance shot. Finally, Bennett confirmed his first professional hat trick in the 64th minute as the Jamaican forward tapped in another perfect Hegardt service.
Bennett’s 25-minute hat trick – just the third of the League One season and first in the 24-year-old forward’s one-year professional career – serves as the second quickest in league history behind Ronaldo Damus' 18-minute hat trick for North Texas SC on June 12, 2019.
“It was a great night for us,” Charlotte Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries said. “We hadn’t had a shutout in a long time, and I thought the whole group worked hard to limit chances. Hats off to the team, some nice goals, and credit to Khori. He’s worked really hard, so it’s nice to see him get rewarded for it.
“We have a certain confidence with playing here that we hope to continue,” Jeffries added. “Like any game, we’ll take note and see where we recover, but I think we’ll be able to build confidence-wise in terms of our ability on the ball and possession today, so there’s a lot we can take as positives.”
The Independence lead the way with four players named to the Team of the Week to fittingly match their 4-0 victory over Fuego FC on Friday. Elsewhere, Forward Madison FC, the Richmond Kickers and South Georgia Tormenta FC see a pair of players on the list from their respective clubs.
GK – Raiko Arozarena, Forward Madison FC: Playing the most total minutes of any ‘keeper in Week 18, Arozarena kept a clean sheet against Omaha before helping Madison to a 1-1 draw with Northern Colorado by totaling a week-high tying three saves.
D – Héctor Acosta, Charlotte Independence: Acosta scored his second goal of the season in Charlotte’s 4-0 thumping of Central Valley on Friday. Acosta added to the Jacks’ big win with three clearances, two blocks and two interceptions.
D – Dakota Barnathan, Richmond Kickers: After scoring his first professional goal last week, the 27-year-old defender scored five minutes into stoppage time to secure an improbable come-from-behind win for the Kickers. Barnathan also tallied three interceptions and two clearances while completing nearly 70% of his long balls and 90% of his passes.
D – Mitch Osmond, Forward Madison FC: Osmond had the highest passing score of the week according to American Soccer Analysis as the Aussie completed 107 of his 114 passes over two Week 18 matches. Overall, Osmond recorded 10 recoveries and five clearances on 69% ground and aerial duel success and 75% long ball accuracy.
D – Arthur Rogers, Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC: Rogers recorded his sixth assist in a 1-1 draw with Madison on Saturday to go along with his two chances created, 80% passing accuracy and four recoveries. In the six matches in which Rogers has recorded an assist, the Hailstorm have gone 3-1-2.
M – Kingsford Adjei, South Georgia Tormenta FC: The No. 1 2021 USL League Two Top Prospect has had no issue adjust to the professional pace of League One as the Ghanaian winger notched his fourth goal of the season in a 3-1 win over table-topping Triumph SC on Saturday. Adjei completed 100% of his 30 passes and won five of seven ground duels.
M – Chris Hegardt, Charlotte Independence: A week after scoring once and assisting his side twice, Hegardt again dished out a pair of assists in a 4-0 win against Fuego FC. The Charlotte FC loanee completed 96% of his passes and recorded the third-highest goals added mark according to American Soccer Analysis.
M – Miguel Ibarra, Charlotte Independence: One of the Independence’s veteran leaders, Ibarra assisted Khori Bennett’s second score and completed 95% of his 80 passes. With eight combined goals and assists this season in just 1,169 minutes of action, Ibarra is having the most productive season of his 11-year professional career in terms of goals and assists per 90 minutes.
M – Nil Vinyals, Richmond Kickers: In addition to completing 100% of his dribbles, 100% of his long balls, 85% of his passes and 75% of his crosses, Vinyals went off in stoppage time for the Kickers, assisting Emiliano Terzaghi’s equalizing goal two minutes into stoppage time before setting up Dakota Barnathan’s winner three minutes later.
F – Khori Bennett, Charlotte Independence: In his first full professional season, Bennett recorded his first professional hat trick and just the third of the League One season on Friday against Central Valley. In 76 minutes of play, Bennett added on by winning five ground duels and three fouls.
F – Kazaiah Sterling, South Georgia Tormenta FC: The former Tottenham Hotspur FC Academy man is having a career renaissance in Statesboro with more combined goals and assists in just 13 matches this season than any other season of his career. Sterling propelled South Georgia to an impressive win over Greenville with a one-goal, one-assist performance.