North Carolina FC 2 – 0 Charlotte Independence
CARY, NC—Two things are true about Oalex Anderson:
- He loves playing against Charlotte.
- He likes it when teams talk s— to him and try to push him off his game.
“It’s been happening all season, so that’s like motivation for me,” Anderson said of other teams trying to get under his skin. “So they can keep doing that and I’m glad to stick two in them so they can take that back to Charlotte with [them].”
Anderson got the fireworks started early by bagging a brace and creating tons of chaos for the Charlotte defense, earning a free kick that would lead to his first goal of the night and prove costly to the Jacks in more ways than one.
The Jacks thought they snagged the early lead in the 17th minute when Avionne Flanagan played a ball into the box for the ever-dangerous Dane Kelly, who redirected the ball past Tor Saunders and into the net. But the linesman spotted Kelly offside, and the goal was disallowed.
Possession was fairly even throughout the first half, but it was the Dead Whales who saw the better chances, including one in the 36th minute. After a spell of header pinball around midfield, the ball dropped at the feet of Rafa Mentzingen. The Brazilian took a touch to move the ball into the Charlotte box and tried to lay it off to a sprinting Garrett McLaughlin, but Shalom Dutey made a fantastic sliding tackle to prevent the pass from reaching the intended recipient.
But Mentzingen didn’t give up on the play and outraced his defender to the ball at the side of the box. His shot from a hard angle bounced off of goalkeeper Austin Pack right to McLaughlin, who tried to smack it into the net, but Dutey made an incredible clearance off the goal line.
But Dutey’s night was about to take a rough turn when he fouled Anderson just outside the Independence 18-yard box. With Mentzingen and Jaden Servania over the ball, NCFC’s free kick was brilliant in its simplicity.
Servania started a run to the left, leaving Mentzingen to roll a back pass into his path. It was enough to get Servania around the wall with plenty of room to uncork a shot that Peck couldn’t corral. The rebound came to Anderson, who, cool as you like, tipped the ball into the net to give NCFC the 1-0 lead before halftime.
Dutey would be shown a second yellow in the 78th minute, forcing the Independence to play with ten men for the final 12 minutes of the game.
Name a Better Duo
Last season head coach John Bradford put Anderson and McLaughlin up front, and immediately the Dynamic Duo started wreaking havoc on USL League One defenses. Injuries and other misfortune kept them from reaching their full potential last year. But in 2023, they’re back and better than ever.
To call McLaughlin’s pass to Anderson for the second goal an assist doesn’t do the play justice. With a defender draped over him and tugging his shirt, McLaughlin collected a beautiful ball from Gustavo Fernandes, then laid off an absolutely filthy backheel to Anderson, who slipped his defender and slammed the ball home.
The assist left McLaughlin tied for first in the league for assists and moved Anderson into a three-way tie for third place in the Golden Boot race with six goals (including two braces against the Independence) this season.
Missing Big Names but Not Missing a Beat
North Carolina was missing some key players from their lineup Friday evening. Nelson Flores Blanco and Raheem Somersall were on international duty, and Nicholas Holliday was out due to injury. The fact that the team didn’t miss a beat, despite missing some big contributors, is a testament to the work they put in during training.
Saunders didn’t see a whole lot of action, thanks to a solid shift from Mikey Maldonado and Luis Arriaga—playing in his 100th game—with Fernandes and captain Daniel Navarro locking down the back line.
“Our group, from every single player, obviously, was committed to the purpose tonight to try to get a win,” said Bradford after the match. “You know, we miss Nelson, Raheem and Nick…but it just shows the quality of the group overall. Tremendous depth and, again, the attitude of the group to make sure we want to try to get a result tonight, so, I’m very proud of them.”
Next up for NCFC
First Place North Carolina is off to Tennessee to face One Knoxville on Saturday, July 8. They return to WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, July 15, to take on Forward Madison. You can get tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): T. Saunders; C. Lue Young, G. Fernandes, D. Navarro©, D.J. Benton; L. Arriaga, M. Maldonado, J. Servania (L. Pérez 62’), R. Mentzingen (D. Garcia 86’); G. McLaughlin, O. Anderson (S. Adams 75’)
Charlotte Independence: A. Pack; F. Ngah (T. Mbuyu 46’), N. Spielman, S. Dutey, C. Dimick©; O. Ciss, A. Flanagan (H. Acosta 84’), J. Johnson, R. Djedje (B. Dunwell 65’), G. Obertan (M. Ibarra 46’); D. Kelly (K. Bennett 68’)
North Carolina FC: 2
Charlotte Independence: 0
North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (unassisted) 40’; O. Anderson (G. McLaughlin) 59’
Charlotte Independence: none
North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (YC) 54’
Charlotte Independence: G. Obertan (YC) 20’; S. Dutey (YC) 39’ (YC/ejection) 78’; O. Ciss (YC) 84’