Union Omaha 1 – 2 North Carolina FC
North Carolina FC took their first road trip of the 2023 USL League One season to Nebraska for a Saturday matinee match against Union Omaha.
With each team sitting on four points, only goal differential separated Union Omaha and NCFC, so a win today would go a long way toward boosting either side into the top three.
It was a dream start for the visitors when Oalex Anderson drew a foul in the penalty box about thirty seconds into the game. After Owls player Luis Gil was treated for an injury, Rafa Mentzingen drove home the penalty kick to put NCFC on top two minutes after kickoff.
Anderson went for the repeat in the seventh minute, when he was turned loose on a through ball from Jaden Servania. Rashid Nuhu had to come out of his goal to make the play, colliding with Anderson, but the referee kept the whistle down. Play stayed in the Omaha end and Anderson nearly beat Nuhu on another challenge but the goalkeeper deflected the ball out for a corner kick.
Omaha got their legs back under them and put together a good sequence in the 12th minute with a chip toward goal that Nicholas Holliday got a weak punch to. The ball pinged around the 18-yard box before the NCFC defense cleared the ball away.
Then, in the 16th minute Luis Gil got the ball at the top of the penalty arc and took a shot that forced Holliday to make the diving save to preserve the lead. Moments later, it was Daniel Navarro on the goal line heading the ball back out after Holliday was beaten on a shot by Gil.
With the Owls pushing for the late-half equalizer, Joe Gallardo won the ball on the flank and sent it into the box. Noe Meza got on the end of the cross only to have his point-blank shot blocked out by Chris Lue Young.
DEFLECTION DOUBLES THE LEAD
North Carolina kept up the work in midfield and late in the second half it paid off. Louis Perez took possession of the ball in the attacking third and dribbled inside before trying a shot from distance. The ball deflected off of Junior Palacios and looped over Nuhu’s head and into the net.
The Dead Whales came out of halftime very much alive and kicking, putting pressure on the Omaha defense in the early minutes. But the Owls nearly pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute when Gallardo unleashed a screamer that Holliday had no chance at, but the ball caromed off the crossbar.
Mentzingen came close to a brace in the 79th minute when he took a free kick outside of the Omaha box. His attempt curled on goal, but Nuhu was waiting for it. Two minutes later, Preston Popp chipped the ball across the box to Mentzingen, but his shot went just wide of the mark.
Omaha got one back in the 84th minute after Mentzingen gave up a foul right on the edge of the NCFC box. Gallardo’s free kick went over the two-man wall, and Holliday couldn’t reach it for the tip-over and just like that it was nervy times for North Carolina.
With five minutes of stoppage time added, Junior Palacios committed an ill-advised foul just outside of the Owls’ penalty area. Shak Adams’ free kick was an easy save for Nuhu, but it was good enough to eat away a good 90 seconds off the clock.
As time ticked away, Omaha earned two corner kick opportunities looking for an equalizer. But even with every man flooding the box, couldn’t rescue a point and North Carolina FC came away with a big road win.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
North Carolina found themselves in some foul trouble in the first half with defenders Chris Lue Young and Daniel Navarro and defensive midfielder Mikey Maldonado all sitting on yellow cards. Then in the 31st minute, Nuhu came out to challenge Jaden Servania for the ball and there was contact between the two. The referee saw enough from Servania to give the NCFC midfielder a yellow card.
With Servania in the middle of some heated battles for possession throughout the first half, head coach John Bradford opted to bring in Raheem Somersall at halftime.
Victory mood 😆😆 pic.twitter.com/W4nT937FPP— North Carolina FC (@NorthCarolinaFC) April 15, 2023
Next up for NCFC is a home match against the Chattanooga Red Wolves on Friday, April 21st at 7pm. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): N. Holliday; C. Lue Young, D. Navarro©, D. Garcia, N. Flores Blanco; L. Arriaga (G. Fernandes 90+’), M. Maldonado, L. Perez (P. Popp 67’), J. Servania (R. Somersall 46’); O. Anderson (G. McLaughlin 67’), R. Mentzingen (S. Adams 85’)
Union Omaha: R. Nuhu; J. Palacios, A. Souahy, S. Brewer Jr.; M. Milanese (S. Mueller 88’), C. Doyle ©, L. Gil (A. Steinwasher 67’), J. Brito (P Dollabella 55’), J. Gallardo; S. Dos Santos, N. Meza
North Carolina FC: 2
Union Omaha: 1
North Carolina FC: R. Mentzingen (PK) 3’; L. Perez (M. Maldonado) 43’
Union Omaha: J. Gallardo (unassisted) 84’
North Carolina FC: C. Lue Young (YC 5’); M. Maldonado (YC 14’); D. Navarro (YC 25’); J. Servania (YC 31’); P. Popp (YC 71’)
Union Omaha: C. Doyle (YC 17’); S. Brewer (YC 46’); A. Souahy (YC 73’); J. Palacios (YC 78’)