Following a 10-day break, North Carolina FC traveled to Windsor, CO, to take on Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC.
Their previous match in late April was a spirited affair that saw a total of 10 yellow cards shown and the visiting Hailstorm getting the late goal to take home the three points.
NCFC planned to return the favor on Wednesday night by spoiling Northern Colorado’s premier home game while building on their current good form. With previous wins over Greenville and Richmond, North Carolina FC was sitting near the top of the table with a chance to reach first place if they collected all three points.
And they would do it without the services of Oalex Anderson, Jaden Servania, and Raheem Somersall. They are representing their respective national teams in Round One of the Concacaf League of Nations tournament.
The Dead Whales took the absences of their three starters—and the Colorado altitude—in their stride in the game’s early minutes. With Cole Frame and Showkat Tahir earning their first start for head coach John Bradford’s team, NCFC threw some challenges at the NOCO defense.
Tahir stated his case to remain in the starting lineup in the 16th minute when he settled a pass from Luis Arriaga and let loose with a blast from just outside the box that beat goalkeeper Johan Peñaranda. A quarter of the way into the game, North Carolina FC was up 1-0.
Northern Colorado was starting to get their legs into the game by the 20th minute, forcing NCFC into giving up free kicks in their defensive third. North Carolina conceded ten fouls to Northern Colorado’s five by halftime.
But the Hailstorm would even the score during the run of play that started with a lovely cross from Trevor Amann to Irvin Parra. The striker coolly brought the ball down with his chest at the top of the box and put just enough lift on his shot to keep it out of Will Pulisic’s reach to make the score 1-1 in the 37th minute.
The Hailstorm defense kept Golden Boot leader Garrett McLaughlin quiet throughout the first half while outshooting the visiting team 7-2.
Despite Northern Colorado dominating possession through the remainder of the first half, NCFC withstood the late pressure to take a 1-1 draw into halftime.
North Carolina would continue to feel pressure from the Hailstorm, who were pushing for the game-winning goal in the club’s first-ever home game. But the Will Pulisic and Jordan Skelton-led defense came up big to deny NOCO the go-ahead tally.
The field tilted through the final half-hour of the game, and it looked like NCFC may find the winner. In the 58th minute, Cole Frame lifted a cross through the box that Luis Arriaga ran onto. Arriaga attempted to direct the ball past Peñaranda, but the Hailstorm keeper went to ground to make the save.
The late-game drama wasn’t over, however. Fighting for all three points in the 84th minute, NCFC’s sustained pressure pinned the NOCO defense in their 18-yard box.
Their first attempt came from Arriaga sending a ground ball across the box to Max Flick. The second-half substitute made the turn in the penalty area, but Hailstorm defender Owen Damm blocked the ball away before Flick could get the shot off.
However, the block sent the ball straight into the air, and it dropped on the right foot of Tahir. He was set to score a brace with a hard volley from just inside the box, but this time, a NOCO defender cleared the attempted shot off the goal line.
Will Pulisic would be called on to make one final save deep into second-half stoppage time to help North Carolina FC get a hard-fought point from Northern Colorado.
Next up for NCFC is the long-anticipated matchup with their rivals from Charlotte on Saturday, June 18. The club will hold a Juneteenth celebration prior to the match at 5:00 p.m., with kickoff scheduled for 7:00. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC: W. Pulisic; C. Lue Young, J. Skelton ©, B. Fischer, N. Flores Blanco; G. Fernandes (M. Flick 70’), N. Martinez, L. Arriaga, S. Tahir (Pecka 88’); G. McLaughlin, C. Frame
Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC: J. Peñaranda; D. Ulysse (O. Damm 61’), B. Evans, R. Cornwall©, A. Rogers; E. Vanacore-Decker (J. Desdunes 74’), N. Nortey (D. Norma 73’), D. Robles, D. Scally; I. Parra, T. Amann (S. Lukic 78’)
North Carolina FC: 1
Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC: 1
North Carolina FC: S. Tahir (L. Arriaga) 16’
Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC: I. Parra (T. Amann) 37’
North Carolina FC: C. Lue Young (YC 22’); N. Martinez (YC 28’);
Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC: D. Ulysse (YC 39’); A. Rogers (YC 45’); R. Cornwall (YC 51’) Parra (YC 82’) Scally (YC 84’)