North Carolina FC 2 – 2 Lexington Sporting Club
CARY, NC—A strong start to the second half saw North Carolina FC claw back from a first half deficit. But a well-taken free kick in a dangerous spot late in the game forced NCFC to settle for a draw in their first home game since May 17th.
The visitors got on the scoreboard first in the 31st minute when Nico Brown delivered a pinpoint cross to Will Baynham, who was left unmarked to direct the header downward past Nicholas Holliday.
North Carolina responded well to the early setback with Oalex Anderson doing a ton of work to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. He looked like he had a late half equalizer loaded, but Lexington’s Amal Knight made an outstanding save, tipping the ball over the crossbar.
John Bradford’s side came out of the locker room in the second half looking to build off of what they started putting together late in the first half. Two quick goals pinned Lexington back in their defensive end for the first 25-30 minutes of the second half.
(DEAD) WHALES ON THE ATTACK
Louis Pérez got NCFC on the board in the 50th minute that started with D.J. Benton lofting a ball down the flank to Anderson. As he did all afternoon, Anderson took on the Lexington defense before laying the ball off to an onrushing Garrett McLaughlin. McLaughlin redirected the ball to Pérez who placed the ball perfectly far-post out of Knight’s reach.
Four minutes later it would be McLaughlin’s turn to add to his goal scoring total on the year. Pérez picked up the ball near the midfield circle and carried the ball across the line before dishing it out to Rafa Mentzingen on the wing. He found Anderson and McLaughlin running toward the penalty spot in support and sent a smooth ground ball through the box. McLaughlin was able to get enough behind the shot to deflect it past Knight and double North Carolina’s lead in the 54th minute.
The Dead Whales continued their attack and McLaughlin nearly bagged a brace a couple minutes later when he tried to redirect a corner kick from Pérez with his head, but Knight came across to block the attempt. Mentzingen followed up on the rebound, but his shot clanged off the post.
NCFC came back with more chaos a minute later when McLaughlin carried the ball down the right side before dishing it off to Christian Lue Young. He had an opening to slot the ball near post but unselfishly slid the ball across the box to Mentzingen, who surely had the third goal in his boot. Alas, the ball seemed to only have eyes for the post.
The rebound came right to Lue Young who made the turn in the box to find some help. The ball pinged around the box between Lue Young, Mikey Maldonado and Pérez before Lue Young picked out Anderson making the run at the far post. Anderson didn’t quite have enough of an angle to finish the play.
“You could tell every guy on the field wanted to get that third goal to try to put the game a little bit more out of reach,’ Bradford said after the game.
COSTLY LAPSES IN FOCUS
Of course, the danger in not putting the game away is letting a team like Lexington hang around for a result. They’ve managed to earn at least a point in their previous four games and started pressing for an equalizer late in the game.
Even with NCFC maintaining intensity on a warm, humid afternoon, a small lapse in focus can change the game quickly. It happened in the first half on Lexington’s opening goal. In the second half it was having to give up a foul in a very dangerous area just outside the North Carolina 18.
Full credit to Tate Robertson: he couldn’t have taken a better free kick, bending it around the NCFC wall and finding the far post just out of Holliday’s reach to give his team another point in the standings.
A GREAT SHIFT FROM GARRETT MCLAUGHLIN
Really, other than not finessing their finish in the first half, the whole North Carolina FC attack put in a solid performance on the day. With a goal and an assist—not to mention another two or three close calls—McLaughlin had a very productive 70 minutes.
“I could have had three goals,” McLaughlin noted after the game. While the draw wasn’t the result they wanted, he was glad to finally get back to WakeMed Soccer Park.
“It felt great. This is one place, you know, that I’ll never get tired of playing. The facilities and field is always amazing.
“So, it’s a good boost when you get extended minutes and, you know, get to play on this field.”
PLENTY TO CELEBRATE
In addition to their homecoming and Juneteenth celebrations, the Father’s Day matinee was extra special for forward Shak Adams, who became a dad on Saturday.
AN EXTRA WEEK TO TUNE UP FOR THE DERBY
North Carolina FC gets the week off before returning to WakeMed Soccer Park for their final Derby match against Charlotte Independence on Friday, June 30. You can get tickets for all NCFC home matches at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): N. Holliday; D.J. Benton, D. Navarro©, G. Fernandes, C. Lue Young (M. Flick 90+5’); L. Arriaga, M. Maldonado, R. Mentzingen (N. Flores Blanco 76’), L. Pérez; O. Anderson (P. Popp 77’), G. McLaughlin (S. Adams 70’)
Lexington SC (4-4-2): A. Knight; O. Green, K. Fox, C. Murillo Jr., T. Robertson; J. James, D. Smart (P. Diamini 67’), C. Machell© (P. Mané 67’), N. Brown; A. Diouf (K. Seo-In 67’), W. Baynham (K. Balogun 57’)
North Carolina FC: 2
Lexington SC: 2
North Carolina FC: L. Pérez (G. McLaughlin) 50’; G. McLaughlin (R. Mentzingen) 54’
Lexington SC: W. Baynham (N. Brown) 31’; T. Robertson (unassisted) 81’
North Carolina FC: D. Navarro (YC 62’)
Lexington SC: O. Green (YC 38’)