MATCH RECAP: North Carolina Starts Big Week with Win over Lexington

North Carolina FC 2 – 1 Lexington Sporting Club

After an unplanned two-week layoff, North Carolina FC finally got to play some football under the lights. USL League One newcomers Lexington Sporting Club made their first trip to Cary on Saturday led by a familiar face to local fans. 

Lexington head coach and former Carolina RailHawk Sam Stockley hoped to snatch three points on his return to WakeMed Soccer Park and put an impressively organized team on the field against NCFC. His team took advantage of a slow start for North Carolina—and a heavy tailwind—to grab the early lead.

Goalkeeper Austin Causey passed the ball over to Franky Martinez. He picked out Tate Robertson making a perfectly timed run and took advantage of the wind to loft the ball over the NCFC defense right into Robertson’s path. The Lexington midfielder pushed the ball to the middle of the box where Khalid Balogun was making his sprint. Balogun made the sliding finish past Nick Holliday to put the visitors on the board in the game’s 5th minute.

North Carolina grew into the game as the half ticked on, putting more pressure on the Lexington defense. Shak Adams thought he had the equalizer in the 12th minute when he collected a pass from Jaden Servania inside the box. He ripped a shot that beat Causey, but defender Kaelon Fox made an outstanding kick save off the line to keep NCFC off the board.

The Dead Whales broke through two minutes later. Rafa Mentzingen, who would earn Player of the Match honors, drew a foul call deep in the attacking third. Servania served a gorgeous free kick into the box looking for a flick-on. The ball got through traffic to Owen Green, but the Lexington defender deflected the ball into his own net to level the score.

NCFC nearly jumped ahead a minute later off a great buildup play that started with Chris Lue Young bringing the ball down the right flank and feeding Garrett McLaughlin just outside the Lexington box. McLaughlin sent the ball across the box with Mentzingen running onto it. The Brazilian got his head on the ball, but it just skimmed over the net.

Play grew chippy as the first half wore on with three Lexington players sitting on yellow cards before the game was half an hour old.

“Obviously it’s a competitive game between the two clubs tonight and a lot of 50/50 challenges,” said North Carolina head coach John Bradford after the game. “But I was also stressing at halftime that a lot of the fouls and a lot of the 50/50’s were created by things being a little bit slower than they should be [with] the movement off the ball, the ability to move the ball with intention every time we had it.”

Holliday was happy to see the physicality in the game. “…the more physical the better,” he said when asked about it after the match. “I think it works in our favor; we’re a physical team, so we have no issues with it whatsoever.”

The teams took the 1-1 deadlock into halftime but not before Terique Mohammed nearly scored off of his corner kick in the 41st minute. His in-swinging corner kick lifted just out of Holliday’s reach but clanked off of the crossbar. 

Bradford made two key substitutions in the second half that changed the energy of the game for North Carolina. Oalex Anderson came on for McLaughlin while new signing Louis Perez checked in for Shak Adams in the 60th minute. 

The two subs figured in a play that nearly put NCFC in the lead in the 68th minute. Perez got the ball in the defensive end and hit Lue Young on an overlap run. Lue Young then found Anderson who wiggled away from his defenders and pushed the ball to Mentzingen. But before he could uncork his shot, Causey and Green combined for the desperation block.

If at first, you don’t succeed… In the 68th minute, Lue Young cut off a Lexington pass and got the ball over the Perez, who pushed the ball forward to Anderson. Anderson created a clean passing lane to Mentzingen, who spun free of his defender and blasted the ball past Causey, off the post and into the net to make it to give NCFC the 2-1 victory.

With three points tucked into their back pocket, the team now looks to their Open Cup showdown with Loudoun United on Wednesday and the derby match against Charlotte next Saturday.

“We’ll go home and recover today and then we’ll come in tomorrow and address it game by game,” said Holliday. “So [we’ll] focus on Loudoun tomorrow and Charlotte after that but we’re focused on Loudon right now.”

“It’s a huge week,” said Mentzingen. “So, I think starting with three points is big. Now, we’ll go to Loudoun, then we’re home with Charlotte. [The Charlotte match] is a derby, so we’re going to play like we did [in the] second half but for 90 minutes, and hopefully, we’ll beat them.”

View photos from the match between North Carolina FC and Lexington SC 04/01/23

Next up for NCFC is their U.S. Open Cup match up the road in Loudoun on Wednesday. They return to WakeMed Soccer Park next Saturday to face the league-leading Charlotte Independence. You can get tickets at


North Carolina FC (4-4-2): N. Holliday; D.J. Benton, D. Navarro©, G. Fernandes, C. Lue Young; L. Arriaga, M. Maldonado, R. Mentzingen (R. Somersall 81’), J. Servania (M. Flick 90+1); S. Adams (L. Perez 60’), G. McLaughlin (O. Anderson 60’)

Lexington SC: A. Causey; O. Green, K. Fox, F. Martinez, T. Mohammed; T. Robertson (J. James 85’), P. Dlamini (D. Irakoze 80’), C. Machell©, N. Brown (A. Diouf 70’); W. Baynham (K. Seo-In 80’), K. Balogun


North Carolina FC: 2

Lexington SC: 1


North Carolina FC: O. Green (own goal) 14’; R. Mentzingen (O. Anderson) 73’

Lexington SC: K. Balogun (T. Robertson) 5’


North Carolina FC: R. Mentzingen (YC 40’); D. Navarro (YC 47’; C. Lue Young (YC 53’); N. Holliday (YC 89’)

Lexington SC: N. Brown (YC 18’); K. Balogun (YC 26’); F. Martinez (YC 29’)

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