After an hour and 47-minute weather delay, North Carolina FC and Union Omaha kicked off their first meeting of the 2022 USL League One regular season.
Great news, everyone (and ahead of schedule, no less 😉)— North Carolina FC (@NorthCarolinaFC) July 9, 2022
The gates to WakeMed Soccer Park will open at 8 PM, with warmups slotted to begin at this time. The match will kick off at 8:45 PM. #NCvOMA | #RootedInNC pic.twitter.com/GfxcMYDhVc
Head coach John Bradford was looking to get his club back on form after a tough road stretch that saw them drop three games. And although they would settle for a draw, he found plenty of positives to take from Saturday night’s game, especially with his midfielders.
From the opening whistle, midfielder Jaden Servania was a man on a mission. Teaming up with Showkat Tahir and Raheem Somersall, North Carolina’s midfield displayed a lot of creativity throughout the first half and drawing the defense away from forwards Garrett McLaughlin and Oalex Anderson to give them more room to create scoring chances.
Tahir had the first look at goal for NCFC moments after Union Omaha had a scoring attempt careen off the goalpost. Tahir ripped a shot from about 25 yards out that Rashid Nuhu parried away. McLaughlin hopped on the rebound and tried to chip the ball over the defenders to Anderson, but the reigning Golden Glove winner snagged the ball out of the air and managed to keep the ball outside of the goal line as he landed in the net.
Next, it would be Servania firing from long range in the 31st minute off of some good combination play with Luis Arriaga. His blast deflected off of the head of an Omaha defender and hit the crossbar.
Servania kept pressing the attack, which finally paid off in the 39th minute. Christian Lue Young pulled the ball down the flank and served it back to Servania. He took advantage of the time and space he had to fire a low shot that skidded and knuckled on the wet grass, beating Nuhu low and near-post to give North Carolina the lead.
“An emphasis for us was trying to find Jaden and Showkat in those spaces in between lines for them and both of them were able to get forward,” Bradford said after the game. “Showkat had that shot that gave them trouble early and Jaden as well, and then finally got his goal.”
“I’m happy for [Servania],” Bradford continued. “I know he’s been frustrated that he had hasn’t been getting goals, so it was good for him to get rewarded tonight.”
North Carolina took the one-goal lead into halftime. But would it be enough to get them back on the winning track?
Union Omaha would have something to say about that, and they aren’t the defending USL League One champions for nothing. They delivered their answer in the game’s 63rd minute.
Ryen Jiba got on the tail end of a lofted ball through midfield and did a lot of work toward the end line before popping the ball back across the box. Noe Meza climbed the ladder and got his head on Jiba’s hopeful cross, nodding it hard into the ground so it bounced past Will Pulisic.
The goal was, as Bradford described it, “soft,” but the positive from the team tonight was that they were able to regroup quickly and not concede more goals in rapid succession. They withstood several set-piece opportunities from Union Omaha late in the game to secure the draw.
So, even if Bradford and his players were disappointed not to take all three points from the game, it was a big step in the right direction for NCFC.
Shak Adams, acquired on loan from Charleston earlier this week, made his NCFC debut in the 89th minute. Although fans didn’t see much of him through five minutes of stoppage time, Bradford is pleased to have another potent attacking threat. “He’s a proven goal scorer in this league last year with Tucson and has the ability to get on the scoresheet and it’s gonna give us the opportunity to maintain high level pressure and high-level tactic for us throughout our front line throughout the whole game.”
Gustavo Fernandes took a knock in the first half after a hard tackle from Omaha’s Isaac Bawa. He continued in the game after being attended to by the training staff and tried to make a go of it in the second half but had to be replaced by Britton Fischer in the 49th minute.
Fischer later got a gash over his eye after going up for a header and catching an Omaha player instead. NCFC held it down with ten men for a few minutes while Fischer headed to the sideline for repairs.
Next up for NCFC is a trip to Chattanooga to take on the Red Wolves on July 16 and then over to South Georgia Tormenta on July 23. They return to WakeMed Soccer Park on Wednesday, July 27, when they host the Richmond Kickers. You can get tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): W. Pulisic; C. Lue Young, J.Skelton©, G. Fernandes (B. Fischer 48’), N. Flores Blanco; S. Tahir (N. Martinez 64’), R. Somersall, J. Servania (Pecka 89’), L. Arriaga; O. Anderson (N. Molina 64’), G. McLaughlin (S. Adams 89’)
Union Omaha: R. Nuhu; I. Bawa (E. Alihodzil 69’), R. Jiba, D. Knutson, A. Touche; C. Doyle©, JP Scearce, J. Brito; K. Malcolm (D. Acoff 69’), N. Meza, H. Kametani
North Carolina FC: 1
Union Omaha: 1
North Carolina FC: J. Servania (C. Lue Young) 39’
Union Omaha: N. Meza (R. Jiba) 63’
North Carolina FC: J. Servania (YC 32’); N. Martinez (YC 83’); R. Somersall (YC 88’)
Union Omaha: I. Bawa (YC 35’);
Today’s match vs Union Omaha. What say you?— wearencsoccer (@wearenc_soccer) July 10, 2022