Charlotte Independence 2 – 1 North Carolina FC
CHARLOTTE, NC—Two days’ rest and a bus ride didn’t seem to slow North Carolina FC down in the early going of their Dogwood Derby matchup Saturday afternoon. While the Charlotte Independence had a week’s rest, the NCFC was coming off a big comeback win over Richmond Wednesday night.
But they didn’t make the final play when they had their chances, giving Charlotte the opening that they needed to grab all three points.
A DOMINANT START
The Dead Whales came out in a full press, keeping the Jacks’ back line busy and earning six corner kicks in the game’s first half-hour.
North Carolina was knocking on the door throughout the half, but their best chance came in the 32nd minute when Nelson Flores Blanco found Garrett McLaughlin in the box. McLaughlin got off a beautiful point-blank header, but Austin Pack was equal to the challenge.
The home team thought they had the opening goal in the 35th minute when Omar Ciss put the ball past Nicholas Holliday, but the goal was waved off because Ciss was offside.
Still, the play made it clear that NCFC needed to get better quality on their attack. With several tired bodies in the lineup, John Bradford’s team wanted to avoid keeping the Independence hanging around for too long.
Christian Lue Young nearly broke the deadlock before halftime when he got his head on the end of a cross into the box. He couldn’t quite direct it downward, and his attempt settled into the top netting.
Play opened up in the second half, with North Carolina FC grabbing the lead right out of the gate. Luis Arriaga stripped the Charlotte defender of the ball and dumped it over to McLaughlin. He caught Oalex Anderson making the supporting run and put the ball perfectly in his path. This time Anderson found the quality on the finish, and the Dead Whales were up 1-0 in the 47th minute.
The Jacks nearly answered 90 seconds later when Joel Johnson got the ball deep in the North Carolina 18-yard box. He lifted the ball across to Miguel Ibarra, but it was too hot for him to get a good angle on the header, and the ball went wide of the net.
They did draw level in the 61st minute when Tresor Mbuyu picked up a loose ball after Holliday made an initial save on Ibarra’s shot attempt.
The equalizer swung the momentum in Charlotte’s favor, with the Independence pinning the NCFC defense back over the next 10 minutes. Bradford went to his bench, swapping Rafa Mentzingen for Garrett McLaughlin and Raheem Somersall for Louis Perez in the 67th minute.
Charlotte head coach Mike Jeffries countered, bringing on Khori Bennett and Gabriel Obertan for Johnson and Ibarra in the 75th minute. The change paid off when Bennett put away a corner kick delivery from Ciss to put the Independence ahead 2-1 in the 81st minute.
RUNNING ON EMPTY
Nine minutes, plus stoppage, would be plenty of time for a reasonably well-rested North Carolina FC to chase a result. But on their third game in a week, and the weather getting warmer as the game wore on, there were plenty of lead legs in red kits. Even with an energetic nudge from subs Preston Popp and Shak Adams, there just wasn’t enough left in the tank to rescue a point.
Charlotte took Game Two of the Dogwood Derby with a final score of 2-1.
A contingent of the Oak City Supporters made the trip to Charlotte to give NCFC a push. The supporters got plenty of shout-outs during the ESPN+ broadcast and some post-game gratitude from John Bradford and Gustavo Fernandes.
“I’d like to call out Oak City Supporters and several of our fans and club staff for making the trip today,” Bradford said. “It was fantastic to have their support here today.”
Fernandes echoed the sentiment: “It means so much to have so many of our supporters travel here for a such a big match. Unfortunately, we couldn’t reward them with the result we wanted, but having them here was incredible.”
NEXT UP FOR NCFC
North Carolina FC gets some rest before heading to Knoxville on June 3. After that is a June 10 visit to Madison before they return to WakeMed Soccer Park on June 18 to take on Lexington SC. You can get tickets for all home games at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): N. Holliday; C. Lue Young (D.J. Benton 86’), G. Fernandes, D. Garcia, N. Flores Blanco; L. Arriaga, M. Maldonado©, L. Perez (R. Somersall 67’), J. Servania (S. Adams 82’); O. Anderson (P. Popp 82’), G. McLaughlin (R. Mentzingen 67’)
Charlotte Independence: A. Pack; C. Dimick, N. Spielman, S. Duty, F. Nagah; A. Flanagan, O. Ciss, J. Johnson (K. Bennett 75’), T. Mbuyu (L. Alvarez 88’); D. Kelly (H. Acosta 89’), M. Ibarra (G. Obertan 75’)
North Carolina FC: 1
Charlotte Independence: 2
North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (G. McLaughlin) 47’
Charlotte Independence: T. Mbuyu (unassisted) 61’; K. Bennett (O. Ciss) 81’
North Carolina FC: L. Perez (YC) 57’; G. Fernandes (YC) 90’; R. Mentzingen (YC) 90+2’
Charlotte Independence: J. Johnson (YC) 35’; O. Ciss (YC) 70’; C. Dimick (YC) 75’; D. Kelly (YC) 88’