Soccer is, as they say, a 90-minute game, but Saturday afternoon’s matchup between North Carolina FC and South Georgia Tormenta felt almost like two or three separate games.
First, there was the Dynamic Duo of Oalex Anderson and Garrett McLaughlin accounting for both of North Carolina’s goals. Then there were mishaps and miscommunications that Tormenta took advantage of. And, finally, the tenacity of this NCFC squad to stay in the game and keep creating chances on tired, cramping legs.
Both teams were on good form coming into the match. Tormenta was unbeaten in four previous games while NCFC brought home a 2 -1 win from Tucson.
North Carolina got off to an aggressive start to the game, attacking down the right flank off the kickoff and drawing Tormenta defender Josh Phelps into a yellow card just a minute and a half in.
Tormenta nearly opened the scoring in the 7th minute when Adrian Billhardt got the ball at the top of the box and cleared a shooting lane for himself. North Carolina goalkeeper Will Pulisic made the initial block, but the rebound got away from him and bounced to the foot of Jamil Roberts. He looked to have Pulisic dead to rights, but his shot careened off the crossbar.
It would be the Dynamic Duo lighting up the scoreboard first.
Anderson took on Tormenta Jake Dengler, driving deep into the attacking end. He cut inside and found McLaughlin making the supporting run through the middle of the penalty area. After drawing goalkeeper Pablo Jara toward him, Anderson made the easy pass to his wide open linemate and all McLaughlin needed to do was make sure his tap-in was on frame to give the Dead Whales the lead in the 10th minute.
Tormenta leveled the score 20 minutes later with some good link up play through midfield. Gabriel Cabral got possession and turned the North Carolina defender before slipping the ball through to Kazaiah Sterling, whose shot from the top of the 18-yard box beat Pulisic, who had come out to challenge.
The visitors took the lead late in the first half. Phelps won a tackle off of McLaughlin at the top of the center circle and the ball went to Billhardt. He found a seam to Barry Sharifi who beat Pulisic to the far post.
Other than a late lull in the first half, North Carolina FC head coach John Bradford was pleased with the way his team executed through much of the first half.
“The idea of how we wanted to try to attack against them was successful, especially in the first half, being able to isolate Garrett and isolate Oalex and play in the behind spaces where we thought we were going to have advantages.”
After getting refreshed and regrouped in the locker room at halftime, NCFC came out ready to chase down a result.
Just out of the halftime break, Raheem Somersall played a flawless pass through to Anderson, who was sprinting into the Tormenta box. Anderson picked out the near post, beating Jara to even the score at two goals each.
Minutes later it looked like North Carolina would retake the lead when Anderson drove through the South Georgia box and was brought down by Jake Dengler. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot and Anderson lined up for the spot kick. Anderson got everything behind the kick, but it skiffed wide of the net.
It looked like the clubs would split the points until the 83rd minute when disaster struck for the Dead Whales. Jordan Skelton tried to play a pass back to Pulisic but there looked to be a miscommunication between the center back and goalkeeper.
As the ball rolled agonizingly slowly toward Pulisic, Tormenta forward Arthur Bousa ran around Skelton and collected the ball. Pulisic tried to clear the ball, but it got caught under Bousa who slid past him. The Tormenta midfielder stood up with nothing but an empty goal in front of him. Tormenta hung on through five minutes of stoppage to take all three points back to Georgia.
For John Bradford’s club, it’s back to the training ground to work out some kinks before a pair of home games against Greenville and Richmond.
“I think that we have to get better at what we do well, and then, obviously, find the things that we’re still falling short on and be able to improve on those, he said after the game.
“I think the opportunity to play Greenville and Richmond over the next two weeks here should be encouraging for the guys to be able to quickly turn this around and get things going back in the right direction.”
Next up for NCFC are the aforementioned home games against Greenville SC next Saturday, May 21 and Richmond on Saturday, May 28. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
- With his first half tally, Garrett McLaughlin took the lead in the USL League One Golden Boot race.
- NCFC players Oalex Anderson, Christian Lue Young, and Jaden Servania were named to the USL League One Team of the Week following their performance at FC Tucson.
- Prior to kickoff, North Carolina held a moment of silence in honor of Nidal Nazmi Albadawi, father of former NCFC captain Nazmi Albadawi. The senior Albadawi passed away last week.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): W. Pulisic; C. Lue Young, J. Skelton ©, G. Fernandes N. Blanco Flores; R. Somersall (Pecka 59’), L. Arriaga, J. Servania, N. Martinez (C. Frame 77’); G. McLaughlin, O. Anderson (S. Tahir 84’)
Tormenta FC: P. Jara©; C. Thorn (O. Green 69’), J. Dengler, J. Phelps, D. Nembhard; G. Cabral K. Umeda 75’), C. Heckenberg, B. Sharifi (A. Morrell 69’), A. Billhardt (K. Adjei 57’), J. Roberts; K. Sterling (A. Bousa 57’)
North Carolina FC: 2
Tormenta FC: 3
North Carolina FC: G. McLaughlin (O. Anderson) 10’; O. Anderson (R. Somersall) 59’
Tormenta FC: K. Sterling (unassisted) 31’; B. Sharifi (A. Billhardt) 41’; A. Bousa (unassisted) 83’
North Carolina FC: C. Lue Young (YC 24’)
Tormenta FC: J. Phelps (YC 2’); B. Sharifi (YC 23’); K. Sterling (YC 35’)