As North Carolina FC prepared to take on Greenville Triumph SC, the brief from head coach John Bradford was simple:
“Take the positive starts that we’ve had in a couple of previous games and extend that to be able to get a complete game,” Bradford noted in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
It was a sentiment echoed by forward Garrett McLaughlin, “In the past two games, we’ve been up one-nil and ended up losing, so I think it’s just about playing a complete game.”
So, with notes that include maintaining consistency and minimizing mistakes—or mitigating their impact—NCFC was ready to hit the ground running against their South Carolina rivals.
North Carolina and Greenville traded chances early in the game. Triumph’s Venton Evans tested NCFC goalkeeper Nick Holliday with a fireball in the game’s first three minutes.
And it would be Evans getting the visitors on the board first in the 19th minute. After making an overlapping run into the North Carolina 18-yard box. Jake Keegan fed the ball to Evans, who cut back the ball to get around an NCFC defender before beating Holliday near post.
But North Carolina fought back, and once again, it was Garrett McLaughlin providing the scoring spark for the Dead Whales. The NCFC forward took advantage of a poor pass between Greenville defenders by stretching out and sticking his boot in the passing lane. Once he secured the interception, he blasted the ball past goalkeeper Paul Christensen to level the score in the 35th minute.
NCFC would get the man advantage in the 67th minute. Greenville defender Evan Lee, already on a yellow card from the first half, came in with a heavy hip check on Oalex Anderson as he was motoring toward the penalty area. Referee Danielle Chesky determined that it was enough to warrant a second yellow card, and Evans was sent to the showers.
North Carolina looked to use the man advantage to grab the lead. McLaughlin nearly had the game-winner twice in the dying minutes of the match. In a wild exchange in the 87th minute, Cole Frame connected with a lobbed ball into the 6-yard box. With a Greenville defender draped over him and no angle to shoot, Frame volleyed the ball across the goal as McLaughlin steamed through. Christensen blocked McLaughlin’s point-blank shot before smothering the ball.
Three minutes later, Pecka, in his first game for NCFC this season, fed a through ball to Christian Lue Young. He picked out McLaughlin making the late run into the box. McLaughlin got a solid shot on frame only to have the ball clang off the crossbar.
At the final whistle, North Carolina and Greenville split the points, giving NCFC a total of 4 points thus far in the season. It was another hard-fought game for North Carolina, but Bradford would have liked to see his squad capitalize on their man advantage.
“Obviously, the objective of this game is to create chances and put yourself in a situation where you can score goals within the team well and all that, and so I think in the general aspect pleased,” Bradford said after the game, adding, “but obviously to go up a man and not be able to convert one of the many chances that we created late in the game is disappointing we didn’t get all three points.”
In addition to McLaughlin being a bright spot for NCFC, Christian Lue Young has quietly put together several outstanding performances early in the season, creating many chances for North Carolina coming down the right flank.
…the objective of this game is to create chances and put yourself in a situation where you can score goals within the team well and all that, and so I think in the general aspect pleased…North Carolina FC Head Coach John Bradford
“Every game, he continues to understand the way that our team is trying to play and how he fits that mold very well,” said Bradford. “Obviously, the more narrow that they get, the more opportunities he has to be wide. He’s a really good crosser of the ball, gives good service, and just gives us a chance, you know, so I think Chris in each game is getting better.”
Despite getting the late game-winning goal to collect all three points, Bradford was generally pleased with his team’s performance. “I thought the guys competed for the entirety of it, which is good.”
Next up for NCFC is a nearly two-week break before their next game. On Saturday, April 30, Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC makes their first visit to WakeMed Soccer Park. You can get tickets for the match at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): N. Holliday; C. Lue Young, J. Skelton ©, G. Fernandes, N. Flores Blanco; R. Somersall (Pecka 68’), L. Arriaga, J. Servania (S. Tahir 83’), N. Martinez; G. McLaughlin, O. Anderson (C. Frame 68’)
Greenville Triumph SC: P. Christensen; N. Shultz, B. Fricke, E. Lee, T. Polak (J. Filerman 46’); D. Smart, P. Pearson (S. Altamirano 90+3’), A. Walker©, V. Evans (A. Gavilanes 65’); N. Brown (J. Ibarra 46’), J. Keegan (J. Labovitz 65’)
North Carolina FC: 1
Greenville Triumph SC: 1
North Carolina FC: G. McLaughlin (unassisted) 35’
Greenville Triumph SC: V. Evans (J. Keegan) 19’
North Carolina FC: J. Servania (YC 31’)
Greenville Triumph SC: E. Lee (YC 5’, YC/Ejection 67’)