MATCH RECAP: North Carolina FC Battles Back for 2-2 Draw in Knoxville

One Knoxville Sporting Club 2 – 2 North Carolina FC

KNOXVILLE, TN—A promising start for North Carolina FC went quickly downhill late in the first half, but they battled back to earn a draw.

North Carolina wasted no time after an hour-long weather delay. They jumped to an early lead thanks to an Oalex Anderson goal in the fifth minute. They continued pressing the Knoxville back line and opening up some scoring chances but couldn’t find the target.

Meanwhile, One Knoxville started to grow into the game. They clogged up North Carolina’s passing lanes and skillfully drew foul calls and yellow cards against the visitors as they bided their time for a scoring opportunity.

Things went from bad to worse for John Bradford’s side late in the first half.

Knoxville’s best looks at goal in the first half came from set pieces. They evened the score in the 31st minute off a free kick when Jalen Crisler was left wide open in the box and got a header past Tor Saunders.

One Knoxville took the lead five minutes later off some good buildup play from the back. Jake Keegan slipped behind the North Carolina defense and brought the ball to the end line. He rolled a pass back to Callum Johnson, but he was heavily covered by a defender and couldn’t make a play. The ball rolled to the top of the box right to the feet of an onrushing Frank Ross, who rocketed a shot past Saunders to make it 2-1.

Moments later, Saunders—filling in for the injured Nicholas Holliday—went down with an injury late in the first half and had to be subbed out for Trevor Mulqueen.

It would be fair to say that North Carolina—and Garrett McLaughlin in particular—felt the frustration mount in the first half as Knoxville shoved and kicked them with seeming impunity, while similar plays by NCFC resulted in foul calls and yellow cards.

Things got extra spicy in first-half stoppage time when Mikey Maldonado ran over Frank Ross, causing players from both sides to come together in a shouting and shoving match. Amid the kerfuffle, Maldonado got his first yellow card of the night.

With three players sitting on yellow cards and down a goal, North Carolina needed that halftime whistle to reset and regroup for the second half.

The injury bug is biting North Carolina hard right now. Nick Holliday suffered a terrible ankle injury and is expected to be out for two to three months. Then backup keeper Saunders had to leave the game before halftime with an injury.

Then, moments after the second-half kickoff, captain Daniel Navarro collided with a Knoxville player and was down for several minutes with a head injury. He had to come out of the game for some repairs, making way for David Garcia.

Late in the game, Knoxville attacker Sean O’Hearn rolled over Rafa Mentzingen, leaving the North Carolina midfielder down on the ground needing treatment. Mentzingen tried to continue in the game, but still moving gingerly, made way for Shak Adams a couple of minutes later.

With their captain leaving the game with a head injury, North Carolina needed something positive to turn their fortunes around. And they got it courtesy of the hot foot of McLaughlin.

It came from some great team play, with NCFC pushing the ball through midfield and Mentzingen with another nifty back heel that found D.J. Benton on the flank. Benton drove toward the endline before turning the ball back to McLaughlin, who redirected it past Lewis to level the score in the 60th minute.

McLaughlin was looking for his brace a minute later when he challenged the Knoxville defense, but it went out for a corner.

The early second-half goal gave North Carolina a much-needed boost as they dominated possession in the second stanza and outshot One Knoxville 18-8 on the night.

But even though both teams found plenty of yellow cards in the second half—including a second yellow to Maldonado leading to his ejection in stoppage time—neither side could find the game-winner, and the Saturday night match ended in a 2-2 deadlock.

It may not be the way he dreamed it, but Trevor Mulqueen stepped up when his team needed him. Though the NCFC defense didn’t let a whole lot through, Mulqueen came up with a couple of big saves to give his team the opportunity to leave Knoxville with points.

North Carolina FC returns to WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, July 15, to take on Forward Madison. You can get tickets at

North Carolina FC (4-2-3-1): T. Saunders (T. Mulqueen 42’); C. Lue Young, G. Fernandes, D. Navarro© (D. Garcia 49’), D.J. Benton; L. Arriaga, M. Maldonado; L. Pérez (J. Servania 76’), R. Mentzingen (S. Adams 90’); O. Anderson; G. McLaughlin

One Knoxville Sporting Club (4-3-3): S. Lewis; J. Thomas (S. O’Hearn 78’), J. Skelton, J. Crisler, D. Waldeck; A. Kelly-Rosales, Y. van der Pluijm, J. Villalobos (D. Fernández 78’); C. Johnson (I. Ilic 67’), F. Ross (M. Vowinkel 83’), J. Keegan (A. Selemani 68’)

North Carolina FC: 2
One Knoxville Sporting Club: 2

North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (Mentzingen) 4’; G. McLaughlin (D.J. Benton) 60’
One Knoxville Sporting Club: J. Crisler (J. Skelton) 30’; F. Ross (J. Keegan) 36’

North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (YC) 18’; L. Pérez (YC) 38’; M. Maldonado (YC) 45+4’; G Fernandes (YC) 54’; J. Servania (YC) 85’; M. Maldonado (YC/RC) 90+5’
One Knoxville Sporting Club: D. Waldeck (YC) 44’; J. Thomas (YC) 45+3’; J. Villalobos (YC) 56’; S. O’Hearn (YC) 86’; J. Crisler (YC) 90+7’

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