The last couple of weeks of June were unkind to North Carolina FC. Now that the calendar has turned to a new month, the team hoped for a turn in their fortunes as they traveled to Richmond on Saturday to face off against the Kickers.
When the teams last met on May 28, NCFC overcame an early deficit to defeat the Kickers 2-1 and remain undefeated against their Virginia rivals.
Even with a couple of tough results at Central Valley and Greenville, the Dead Whales were still lurking toward the top of the USL League One table. A win against Richmond would boost them into third place, one point behind the Kickers. A win for Richmond would put them at the top of the table, pending the outcome of the rest of the weekend’s games.
Richmond had the early chance to get on the scoreboard in the 8th minute when Vincenzo Candela tried to blast the ball on goal, but the shot deflected off of the NCFC defense and went out for a corner kick. NCFC cleared out the corner kick to keep the home team scoreless.
In the 13th minute, Christian Lue Young fed a through ball to Garrett McLaughlin. Richmond goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald came out to challenge for the ball, but former Kicker Oalex Anderson put the heat on the keeper and was nearly able to get his boot in. However, Fitzgerald recovered to make the save and keep the score a 0-0.
Just before the hydration break, Servania worked the ball down the field and pushed it wide to Anderson, who was looking for McLaughlin all the way as his attacking partner was making his run into the box. The league scoring leader threw his body at the cross but couldn’t connect.
Even if it didn’t result in a goal, it was a positive sequence for North Carolina. It awakened their confidence as they started pressing Richmond in their own end.
The pressure paid off in the 41st minute when McLaughlin swept in and picked up a bad pass in the Kicker defense. He fed the ball through to Anderson, who made no mistake on the finish to give NCFC the lead close to halftime.
Now, all North Carolina FC had to do was carry this momentum through the second half. And unsurprisingly, the Richmond Kickers had other ideas.
Their early pressure on the NCFC defense forced North Carolina captain Jordan Skelton to make a tremendous play to keep Richmond off the board. Moments later, goalkeeper Will Pulisic came up big on a save to deny the home team a goal.
Then it was North Carolina’s turn, with Anderson storming through the Richmond defensive end and finding McLaughlin, but the finish wasn’t there. Then it was Jaden Servania in the 53rd minute getting the ball on his right foot and ripping a shot that just missed the top corner.
Richmond withstood the pressure from North Carolina and found the equalizer in the 59th minute when North Carolina couldn’t clear a cross through their 18-yard box. Stephan Payne got the ball at the end line to keep it in play and fired it across to Emiliano Terzaghi, who beat Pulisic to level the score.
The Kickers pulled in front a few minutes later when Jonathan Bolanos took a shot from the top of the box that got past Pulisic.
And just like that, NCFC went from riding a wave of momentum to having to claw their way up from a 2-1 deficit to get any points out of their road trip.
Richmond added another goal in the 75th minute from a well-executed build-out from back to front that ended with Ethan Bryant at the top of the box sending a wide pass over to Owayne Omar Gordon, who caught Pulisic with a shot to the opposite corner.
The rout was on when Barnathon’s slide tackle liberated the ball out of the Richmond defensive end. Gordon ended up with the ball in the North Carolina 18-yard box. With a defender closing in on him, he slid the ball across the box to Terzaghi, who tapped it in from the doorstep.
Showkat Tahir had the best look at goal for NCFC in the game’s dying minutes when he got the ball in some space, but his shot from the top of the box sailed high.
The final whistle sounded moments later, and the Richmond Kickers beat North Carolina FC for the first time in USL League One play. It was a tough result for NCFC, capping off a rough three-game road skid.
Next up for NCFC: Home, Sweet Home. North Carolina FC hosts Union Omaha on Saturday, July 9. You can get tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): W. Pulisic; C. Lue Young, J. Skelton©, G. Fernandes, N. Flores Blanco; N. Martinez (Pecka 83’), R. Somersall (S. Tahir 76’), J. Servania (C. Frame 76’), L. Arriaga (N. Rincon 83’); O. Anderson (N. Molina 62’), G. McLaughlin
Richmond Kickers (4-3-3): A. Fitzgerald (A. Causey 91’); S. Payne (S. Fitch 83’), S. Ritchie, J. Crisler, D. Barnathan; Z. Moran Correa, E. Bryant; V. Candela (C. Molina 83’), E. Terzaghi©, M. Bentley (O. Gordon 45’), J. Bolanos (C. O’Dwyer 78’)
North Carolina FC: 1
Richmond Kickers: 4
North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (G. McLaughlin) 41’
Richmond Kickers: E. Terzaghi (S. Payne) 59’; J. Bolanos (E. Terzaghi) 63’; O. Gordon (E. Bryant) 75’; E. Terzaghi (O. Gordon) 79’
North Carolina FC: C. Lue Young (YC 33’); O. Anderson (YC 42’); R. Somersall (YC 65’)
Richmond Kickers: M. Bentley (YC 26’); S. Payne (YC 30’); (J. Bolanos (YC 64’)