North Carolina FC traveled to the desert southwest to take on FC Tucson in a Saturday night USL League One matchup.
NCFC was looking to get back on form after a disappointing home loss last week to Northern Colorado, while Tucson was coming off of a 2-0 defeat at home to South Georgia Tormenta.
The Dead Whales put together a solid first half but found themselves down early in the game. Yuki Shibata slid a pass through to Daniel Bedoya, who was making a run through the box. Bedoya knocked the ball over to Deri Corfe, whose right-footed shot beat North Carolina goalkeeper Will Pulisic.
Forced to chase the game just 10 minutes in, North Carolina organized the attack with Nelson Flores Blanco and Christian Lue Young, creating opportunities to spring forwards Garret McLaughlin and Oalex Anderson for scoring chances. But most of the opportunities ended up with comfortable saves for FC Tucson goalkeeper Carlos Merancio.
North Carolina came out in the second half pushing hard to get the equalizer. Anderson’s individual effort in the 51st minute clanged off of the bar keeping the visitors off the board.
The pressure from NCFC finally paid off in the 68th minute when Anderson sent a perfectly-weighted ball through to Jaden Servania, who settled the ball and coolly ripped a left-footed shot that beat Merancio to the bottom corner of the goal.
NCFC nearly gained the lead in the 77th minute. Servania got on the end of a through pass, but instead of taking a shot, laid the ball off to Nelson Flores Blanco for the shot, but Merancio made the sliding save.
North Carolina couldn’t completely shake FC Tucson off despite holding a substantial advantage in possession and shots. The home team broke through for a couple of scoring opportunities, but the NCFC defense snuffed out any chances Tucson created.
McLaughlin nearly got the game-winner in the 90th minute when the ball was lofted toward him in the Tucson penalty area. The NCFC forward got his head to the ball but couldn’t keep it on frame, and they went into stoppage time deadlocked.
A minute into stoppage time, Servania was making a play at the top of the penalty area when Tucson’s Burke Fahliing left his feet to take down the NCFC midfielder. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot.
Carlos Merancio guessed the direction of Oalex Anderson’s penalty attempt correctly, but the ball was well struck, giving North Carolina the well-earned lead in stoppage time.
But the drama wasn’t quite over yet. Tucson kept pushing forward to get an equalizer and earned a corner kick in the match’s dying moments. The home team made one last try to level the score, with goalkeeper Merancio moving up to join the set-piece. But FC Tucson’s attempt went out for a goal kick, and North Carolina left Arizona with three well-deserved points.
Next up for NCFC is a three-game homestand to close out the month of May. They host South Georgia Tormenta next Saturday, Greenville Triumph on May 21, and the Richmond Kickers on May 28. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): W. Pulisic; C. Lue Young, N. Blanco Flores, J. Skelton ©, G. Fernandes; R. Somersall (Pecka 78’), L. Arriaga, J. Servania (M. Flick 90+5’), N. Martinez; G. McLaughlin, O. Anderson (B. Fischer 90+4’)
FC Tucson: C. Merancio; K. Fox© (G. Calixtro 46’), J. Crull, T. Moss, L. Mastrantonio; T. Allen, B. Fahling, D. Bedoya, C. Machell (E. Wynder 79’); Y. Shibata (D. Bloyou 79’), D. Corfe
North Carolina FC: 2
FC Tucson: 1
North Carolina FC: J. Servania 68’ (O. Anderson); O. Anderson 90+2’ (PK)
FC Tucson: D. Corfe 9’ (D. Bedoya)
North Carolina FC: J. Servania 45+3 (YC)
FC Tucson: L. Mastrantonio 8’ (YC); B. Fahling 35’ (YC); J. Crull 49’ (YC); D. Bedoya 86’ (YC)