North Carolina FC 1 – 1 Charlotte Independence
North Carolina FC and Charlotte Independence battled through a chilly, unrelenting rain to a 1-1 draw Saturday night at Wake Med Soccer Park.
Both clubs were coming off of U.S. Open Cup games on Wednesday night, with Charlotte besting Appalachian 2-0 and NCFC going 120 minutes before falling to Loudoun United on a goal at the end of overtime.
North Carolina head coach John Bradford was looking for a strong start from his team, and the opening minutes provided plenty of end-to-end action. In the fifth minute, Dane Kelly attempted to finish off a nice Independence sequence, but his shot was over the crossbar. At the other end of the field, NCFC put the Jacks under defensive pressure, resulting in a seventh-minute free kick just outside the box and a corner kick a minute later.
Both goalkeepers came up big for their clubs during the game. Nick Holliday blocked a Tresor Mbuyu shot from the doorstep in the 27th minute that would have put Charlotte on the board early.
The Dead Whales got the first tally in the 32nd minute when Rafa Mentzingen carried the ball from his defensive end before pushing the ball out to Jaden Servania at the top of the box. Servania tried to make some space for a scoring attempt, drawing several Charlotte defenders toward him. Servania’s shot deflected across the box to Oalex Anderson, who buried the shot to make it 1-0 NCFC.
“Knowing the conditions of the game, we expected any shot towards goal to have follow-up opportunities, so I went in looking for that and was lucky enough to be in position and was able to score,” said Anderson after the match.
The teams exchanged chances to finish off the first half, but North Carolina held onto the lead through halftime.
Charlotte midfielder Gabriel Obertan, arguably the most dangerous player for the Jacks on the night, created several chances for the visitors. In the 61st minute, Obertan drove to the middle of the field, just outside the North Carolina box. His shot didn’t have much on it, but Kelly was in the middle of the box to redirect the shot past Holliday for the equalizer.
NCFC captain Daniel Navarro was pleased with the team’s strong start but wants to see them keep the pressure on for a full 90 minutes. “I think we started really well, but after we scored, we kind of relaxed a little bit,” he said. “We dropped too much, we let [Charlotte] play and gave them confidence. Once they got the goal, we started to play again. In general, we did well. But we have to take that lesson to keep playing hard, even with a lead, we need to control the game and then, maybe, relax after a full ninety minutes.”
Led by the steadiness of Luis Arriaga and the creative play of Mentzingen, North Carolina put a lot of pressure on the Independence back line throughout the second half. The press nearly paid off in the 77th minute when Mentzingen and Garrett McLaughlin—who subbed on for Anderson at the hour mark—linked up for a dangerous scoring attempt. But somehow, Austin Pack managed to dive and get a glove on McLaughlin’s shot to keep the game level.
It was a hard-fought 90-plus minutes, but North Carolina was disappointed not to finish more of their chances and come away with the win.
“In all honesty, I thought there was some excellent football between the build-up, the middle third and up into the final third,” said Bradford.
“Where we need to improve, here in the early stage of the season, is getting a cross or a shot off every time that we do that and not just being satisfied to keep possession higher up the field. I was pleased with the tactical play tonight. The last couple of games we’ve had we’ve put ourselves out in front of goal and just haven’t been able to execute. I know that will come and the results will come too.”
Next up for NCFC is a trip to Nebraska to take on Union Omaha. They return to WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday, April 21, to face the Chattanooga Red Wolves. You can get tickets for all home games at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): N. Holliday; D.J. Benton, D. Navarro©, D. Garcia, N. Flores Blanco; L. Arriaga, M. Maldonado, L. Perez (R. Somersall 90+3), J. Servania (C. Lue Young 90+6); O. Anderson (G. McLaughlin 59’), R. Mentzingen
Charlotte Independence: A. Pack; N. Spielman, S. Dutey, J. Johnson, C. Dimmick©; O. Ciss, M. Ibarra (K. Bennett 68’), B. Dunwell (B. Ndiaye 45’ L. Alvarez 75’’), G. Obertan (F. Ngah 88’); D. Kelly, T. Mbuyu (A. Flanagan 68’)
North Carolina FC: 1
Charlotte Independence: 1
North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (unassisted) 32’
Charlotte Independence: D. Miller (G Obertan) 61’
North Carolina FC: D. Garcia (YC 10’); R. Mentzingen (YC 74’); D.J. Benton (YC 83’; YC/RC 90’)
Charlotte Independence: B. Dunwell (YC 7’); D. Kelly (YC 30’); O Ciss (YC 45+2’); A. Pack (YC 90+4’)