A point is a point, and every one counts, but for North Carolina FC, it was a disappointing result in a game they dominated.
After a week on the road, North Carolina FC returned home to WakeMed Soccer Park to take on FC Tucson Saturday night. Head Coach John Bradford’s team was looking to build off of a hard-fought draw Wednesday night in Madison, WI, hoping to keep a clean sheet while putting some balls in the back of the net.
They would be without the services of Gustavo Fernandes, who was sitting out due to a yellow card accumulation. Bradford moved Max Flick into the center-back role alongside captain Jordan Skelton. The tandem did well throughout the game, working together to quash most of FC Tucson’s offensive opportunities.
The teams traded chances early in the first half, but NCFC got on the board in the 18th minute on a slick combination play between Nicolas Molina and Showkat Tahir.
“I think playing Showkat centrally, he’s an intelligent player that can get to good spots and Molina is such a great target,” Bradford said after the game. “We were able to play it in to [Molina], and whether he holds it up to play it for Showkat or it’s the other way around where Showkat’s combining off of Nico, you know, I thought they both did well.”
Second goal of the season for @Showkattahir1, and @NorthCarolinaFC grab the early lead! 🙌#NCvTUC // #WeAreOne pic.twitter.com/gkxkZrk24q— USL League One (@USLLeagueOne) August 27, 2022
The early tally seemed to energize North Carolina as they started putting more pressure on Tucson, making it difficult for the visitors to build any attack through midfield.
For NCFC, there weren’t many notes for the first half. Movement on and off the ball was sharp, passes were crisp, and Tahir and Molina looked like they had developed a solid partnership. Whenever FC Tucson managed to chip a ball into the box, the back line overlapped each other to cancel any scoring opportunities.
The Dead Whales carried that positive energy into the second half, coming out of the break with plenty of energy, only to have play stopped in the 53rd minute due to lightning strikes in the area.
After an hour-long delay, the teams took the field again, with NCFC pressing Tucson’s back line right out of the gate. In the 55th minute, Nelson Flores Blanco drove through the Tucson box, and the ball pinged around the box before landing in front of Molina. He lined up the shot, but it missed wide.
Then in the 63rd minute, Tahir found Molina at the right side of the box. The Argentinian beat Merancio with the shot ticketed for the far post, but the ball skidded just wide.
Shak Adams had his chance to double the NCFC lead in the 69th minute with a screamer headed for the upper 90. He had Merancio beat, but the goalpost bailed the Tucson goalkeeper out.
You don’t want to let a team hang around in the game for too long, and between a lengthy delay and FC Tucson bringing on fresh legs, North Carolina’s defense was starting to feel the pressure. Will Pulisic proved ready for the challenge of keeping a clean sheet.
However, Tucson found the equalizer in the 81st minute on a play that started with a corner kick. Pulisic punched the ball out, but it came to Louis Perez, who unleashed a banger of a volley that Pulisic had no chance at.
NCFC pressed for the game-winner with Bradford swapping in firepower in the form of Garrett McLaughlin and Oalex Anderson, with Pecka brought in to direct traffic through midfield. But that pressure, and the fresh legs of Tucson substitutes, tested North Carolina’s defense.
But the game ended in a 1-1 draw. While a point is better than nothing, it was a disappointing result for North Carolina FC, who had played well enough to earn all three points for most of the game.
“A disappointing end to the game,” was Bradford’s assessment of the evening. “The guys left everything they had on the field and in the game, and unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish more of our chances.”
Bradford was pleased with the character the team showed throughout the game but wants them to get in the habit of putting the game away.
FT: A late-match stunner from Louis Perez secured a point for both sides in a match largely controlled by the visitors 🤐@NorthCarolinaFC – 1@FCTucson – 1#NCvTUC | https://t.co/UAjz3GOeG2 pic.twitter.com/tg9c6P7eHw— USL League One (@USLLeagueOne) August 28, 2022
Final notes: It was a costly game for NCFC, with Jaden Servania and Christian Lue Young each receiving yellow cards. They will miss the game next week in Colorado due to yellow card accumulation.
Next up, NCFC hits the road again as they travel to Northern Colorado to take on the Hailstorm. They return to WakeMed Soccer Park on September 9 when they host Central Valley Fuego FC. You can get tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC: W. Pulisic; C. Lue Young, M. Flick, J. Skelton©, N. Flores Blanco; N. Martinez (Pecka 85’), S. Tahir, L. Arriaga (O. Anderson 85’), J. Servania (R. Somersall 46’); S. Adams (G. McLaughlin 77’), N. Molina
FC Tucson: C. Merancio; D. Toia, J. Crull, L. Mastrantonio, K.Fox©; J. Delgado (F. Perez 67’), M. Sunday (T. Moss 67’), L. Perez; T. Weir (E. Kinzner 83’), G. Calixtro (F. Garcia 67’), B. Fahling
North Carolina FC: 1
FC Tucson: 1
North Carolina FC: S. Tahir (N. Molina) 18’
FC Tucson: L. Perez (unassisted) 81’
North Carolina FC: J. Servania (YC) 31’; S. Adams (YC) 77’; C. Lue Young (YC) 78’
FC Tucson: L. Mastrantonio (YC) 47’