Greenville Triumph SC 1 – 2 North Carolina FC
A solid performance from the back line, combined with a midfield that pestered the home team at every turn, earned North Carolina a win over Greenville Triumph SC Saturday night.
Both sides spent the game’s early minutes getting the lay of the land before NCFC’s attack started testing Greenville’s defense, focusing on Hassan Gabo. The pressure paid off when Rafa Mentzingen drew a foul on the young defender in the Greenville box, prompting the referee to point to the spot.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WORKING ON SET PIECES
After drawing the penalty, Mentzingen stepped up to take the PK. Triumph goalkeeper Jared Mazzola came up with a sliding save, but Louis Perez followed up on the rebound and got it past Mazzola to open the scoring in the 16th minute.
It was a save that could have turned the game’s tide in Greenville’s favor: instead, the second-chance goal swung the momentum to NCFC. The Dead Whales created several chances throughout the first half. They looked to double the lead in the 21st minute when Perez carried the ball into the attacking zone and squared a pass to Mentzingen, who sent a curling screamer toward the far post, only to have it clang off the frame.
Mentzingen got another chance from the spot in the 37th minute after Jaden Servania was brought down in the box while trying to split the Greenville defense. Even though it was Gabo’s second offense in the penalty area, the referee chose not to show him a second yellow card.
Rafa made good on the PK this time, slotting it past Mazzola to make it 2-0.
North Carolina also did a good job of defending set pieces, absorbing Greenville free kicks, and getting after their short corner kicks to disrupt any opportunities they hoped to generate from them.
NCFC continued to frustrate Greenville throughout the first half leading to a flurry of fouls and four yellow cards for the Triumph (one of those was for head coach John Harkes). Though the constant whistles against both teams interrupted game flow, Greenville struggled to establish any traction, while NCFC seemed to take the interruptions more in their stride.
Still, with half of their back line sitting on yellow cards—and Gabo fortunate to have not received a second one—Greenville had a big hill to climb if they were hoping to rescue a point.
Harkes made one substitution to start the second half, swapping Daniel Wu for Jonah Biggar. The former NCFC Youth player looked impressive in his appearance and, along with 63rd-minute substitute Jacob Labovitz, brought creative energy to the Triumph in the second half.
North Carolina was without captain Daniel Navarro Saturday night; however, Gustavo Fernandes stepped in and did a fantastic job anchoring the back line with David Garcia. With the Triumph pushing for a goal during the second half, the defense smothered most of Greenville’s chances, giving Nicholas Holliday a relatively relaxed night in goal.
Their hopes for a second shutout were thwarted late in second-half stoppage time when Greenville’s Alex Cox-Ashwood lofted a cross into the NCFC box. Wu won the aerial battle and headed the ball past Holliday to pull a goal back at the game’s death.
It was the only blemish on a night that saw North Carolina FC rack up their third straight win (and four victories in their last five games) and jump back to the top of the USL League One table.
NEXT UP FOR NCFC
North Carolina FC heads out west to take on Central Valley Fuego FC on Friday May 5. They return home on May 13 to face Forward Madison FC. You can get tickets for all home games at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): N. Holliday; N. Flores Blanco, D. Garcia, G. Fernandes, C. Lue Young; M. Maldonado©, L. Arriaga (R. Somersall 59’), L. Perez (P. Popp 75’), R. Mentzingen (D.J. Benton 87’); J. Servania (M. Flick 87’), O. Anderson (G. McLaughlin 59’)
Greenville Triumph SC: J. Mazzola; J. Biggar (D. Wu 46’), T. Polak©, E. Lee, H. Gabo (B. Fricke 63’); A. Walker, N. Pilato (L. MacKinnon 65’), A. Gavilanes, L. Coutinho (A. Cox-Ashwood 80’); D. Boyce, L. Castro (J. Labovitz 63’)
North Carolina FC: 2
Greenville Triumph SC: 1
North Carolina FC: L. Perez (unassisted) 19’; R. Mentzingen (PK) 37’
Greenville Triumph SC: D. Wu (A. Cox-Ashwood) 90+4’
North Carolina FC: M. Maldonado (YC) 45+1; P. Popp (YC) 84’
Greenville Triumph SC: H. Gabo (YC) 18’; T. Polak (YC) 26’; J. Harkes (YC) 31’; D. Boyce (YC) 32’;