North Carolina FC hoped to get back on their good run of form as they took on their southern rivals Greenville Triumph SC on Wednesday night.
With a schedule of three games in eight days, the Dead Whales looked up to the challenge early in the game, creating some early opportunities in the attacking end.
But it would be Greenville getting on the board early. Allen Gavilanes got onto the through pass from Noah Pilato and blasted the ball short side past Will Pulisic in the 9th minute.
Energized by the early tally, Greenville continued to challenge North Carolina down the right flank, with Gavilanes asking more questions of the NCFC defense. After withstanding a couple of close calls from the home team, North Carolina got to work pushing for the equalizer.
Their aggressive attacking forced Greenville into conceding a handful of set-piece opportunities for NCFC. The stoppages created an ebb in the last 15 minutes of the first half, which, if anything, benefitted North Carolina as they tried to manage fatigue.
NCFC tried to take advantage of two minutes of stoppage time to sniff out the equalizer. Garrett McLaughlin patted a nifty backheel pass to Christian Lue Young, but his right-footed shot took flight over the crossbar. As the teams headed to the locker rooms at halftime, NCFC dominated in possession and set-piece opportunities, which was cause for optimism going into the second 45 minutes.
Moments into the second half, Garrett McLaughlin and Oalex Anderson took advantage of a bad giveaway from Greenville to create a chance on the attack, but the defense was able to deflect the ball out to kill the opportunity. With both teams trying to manage fitness levels, the Triumph were content to wait for opportunities to reveal themselves.
Those opportunities soon opened up for the Triumph.
Jacob Labovitz doubled Greenville’s lead in the 55th minute after pressuring NCFC’s Britton Fischer into a defensive miscommunication with goalkeeper Will Pulisic, leaving the Triumph striker with an open net.
Greenville added another tally in the 59th minute when Labovitz collected an errant pass in the North Carolina defensive end and launched a well-timed cross into the box for Jesus Ibarra. He redirected the ball into the path of an onrushing Jake Keegan, who beat Pulisic and made it 3-0.
As the match ticked into its final minutes, John Harkes’ Triumph team was poised to hand North Carolina FC their first shutout of the 2022 season. Through 84 minutes, the Dead Whales had only a single shot on goal.
Bradford brought on Nicolás Molina and Jaden Servania in the second half, hoping their fresh legs could get his team on the scoreboard. But NCFC struggled to build plays out of the midfield, and Greenville pinged the ball around their attacking end to run down the clock.
North Carolina avoided the shutout on a freak error from Greenville goalkeeper Paul Christensen late in stoppage time. Christensen came out to play a back pass but somehow wildly misplayed his clearing pass, putting it right on the foot of Molina. His easy tap-in kept NCFC’s game-scoring streak alive.
Center referee Aleksandar Zhelyzkov decided to end the game on that rather strange note. At the final whistle, Greenville Triumph SC had taken the full three points, and North Carolina FC prepared to regroup for their trip to Richmond on Saturday.
Game Notes: North Carolina FC was without the services of Nelson Flores Blanco, who was injured in the game against Fuego FC. Max Flick was listed as a starter against Greenville, but it appears that Gustavo Fernandes was swapped in at game time.
Now in his fourth USL League One season, Raheem Somersall reached his 50th appearance.
Despite two consecutive losses, North Carolina remains in fourth place in the USL League One table, just a point behind the second-place Richmond Kickers.
Next up for NCFC is a trip north to Richmond on Saturday to close out their long stretch of away games. They return home on Saturday, July 9, to celebrate Pride Night and take on Union Omaha. You can get tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): W. Pulisic; G. Fernandes, J. Skelton©, B. Fischer (N. Rincon 73’), C. Lue Young; C. Frame, R. Somersall (L. Arriaga 72’), S. Tahir, N. Martinez; O. Anderson (N. Molina 57’), G. McLaughlin (J. Servania 67’)
Greenville Triumph SC (4-4-2): P. Christensen; N. Shultz, B. Fricke (J. Smith 71’), E. Lee, T. Polak; A. Gavilanes (J. Ibarra 45’), N. Pilato (M. Fenton 82’), D. Smart (A. Walker 45’), L. Coutinho; J. Keegan, J. Labovitz
North Carolina FC: 1
Greenville Triumph SC: 3
North Carolina FC: N. Molina (unassisted) 90+4’
Greenville Triumph SC: A. Gavilanes (N. Pilato) 9’; J. Labovitz (unassisted) 55’; J. Keegan (J. Ibarra) 59’
North Carolina FC: C. Lue Young (YC 85’)
Greenville Triumph SC: N. Pilato (YC 22’)