A game-tying goal and a furious late-game rally wasn’t enough to save North Carolina FC’s chances of making the playoffs. A 1-1 tie ended their rally for post-season action.
NCFC wasted no time putting pressure on Omaha with Oalex Anderson drawing a foul at the edge of the penalty area six minutes into the game. Garrett McLaughlin lined up his free kick and went for the early score but drove the ball into the defense.
It was the visitors who got on the board first against the run of play. Britton Fischer’s attempted pass from the end line in the 25th minute went right to Corey Hertzog, and there was nothing goalkeeper Will Pulisic could do to stop the easy shot from Hertzog. It was an unfortunate error from the young center back, who otherwise had a strong half.
But the hallmark of the 2022 North Carolina FC team is its fight and they responded well to conceding the early lead, getting right back on the attack. Nicolas Rincon continually drove at the Omaha defense and in the 36th minute looked to have the equalizer, but his line drive went right to goalkeeper Kevin Piedrahita.
Hurricane Ian’s effects on the field at WakeMed Soccer Park took their toll on Union Omaha in the first half. Starting defenders Dion Acuff and Alex Touche both had to exit the game due to groin and hamstring injuries on the saturated surface. It provided the North Carolina offense a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the thinning Owls defense.
However, even with nearly 70% possession in the first half, NCFC couldn’t find a way to break Omaha’s lines, and the Owls were happy to let North Carolina pass the ball around through midfield.
Second-half substitute Shak Adams had the equalizer on his shoelaces in the 68th minute after a nice combination play between Rincon and Nelson Flores Blanco but somehow the shot missed the mark, preserving Piedrahita’s clean sheet.
After another exceptional game, the 16-year-old Rincon made way for Jaden Servania in the 70th minute as head coach John Bradford opted for fresh legs on the attack with the post season on the line.
With 10 minutes to go in the game, the tension was thick. After showing an incredible work rate all evening long, Anderson finally bagged the game-tying goal in the 83rd minute. After a corner kick pinged around Omaha’s box, Anderson snuck in between the Owls defenders and, falling backwards, still got enough on his shot to get it past Piedrahita.
Anderson almost had a brace a few minutes later off of a play from Flores Blanco but the ball in had a bit too much on it for the forward to get the finish on the play. And his breakaway chance at the death just went into the side netting.
Despite going all-in on the attack late in the second half, North Carolina FC couldn’t get the game-winner and saw their playoff hopes come to an end at the final whistle.
Roster notes: Nelson Flores Blanco was back from international duty with El Salvador and came on in the second half for Max Flick. Gustavo Fernandes had to sit out his second game due to yellow card accumulation.
Next up for NCFC: The season isn’t over yet! North Carolina FC plays their final home game of the year next Saturday, October 8 against the Chattanooga Red Wolves. The Hispanic Heritage Festival will take place in the parking lot before the game (5-7 p.m.). The free festival celebrating Hispanic culture includes live entertainment, plus there will be vendors and food trucks. You can get tickets to NCFC home games at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC concludes the 2022 USL League One season October 15th when they travel to Charlotte to face their rivals the Independence.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): W. Pulisic; C. Lue Young, B. Fischer, J. Skelton ©, M. Flick (N. Flores Blanco 59’); Pecka (S. Adams 59’), R. Somersall (N. Molina 76’), N.Rincon (J. Servania 69’), L. Arriaga; O. Anderson, G. McLaughlin
Union Omaha (4-4-2): K. Piedrahita; R. Jiba, D. Knutson, A. Touche (G. Claudio 40’), D. Acoff (S. Brewer 23’); L. Gil, C. Doyle©, J.P. Scearce, J. Brito; N. Meza, C. Hertzog (H. Kametani 88’)
North Carolina FC: 1
Union Omaha: 1
North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (unassisted) 83’
Union Omaha: C. Hertzog (unassisted) 25’
North Carolina FC: none
Union Omaha: A. Touche (YC 6’); L. Gil (YC 67’); JP Scearce (YC 80’); S. Brewer (YC 85’)