North Carolina FC 2 – 4 Sunderland AFC
CARY, NC—Sunderland AFC wrapped up their pre-season swing through the United States with a 4-2 win against North Carolina FC.
The game marked the English club’s first visit to North Carolina and the first time since 2017 NCFC has faced an English Football Team when they played to a 2-2 draw against Swansea City.
For North Carolina head coach John Bradford, the friendly was a chance for players who hadn’t seen a lot of time—particularly those coming off of injuries—to gain some minutes. For Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray, three games in the most punishing summertime climates was a chance to give his team a fitness advantage over rival clubs who hadn’t spent a week playing in triple-digit heat.
If the Black Cats fans in attendance feared a travel-weary side, they got a pleasant surprise. Just five minutes in, Chris Rigg laid the ball off into the path of Jay Matete, who squeezed the ball between the near post and NCFC goalkeeper Trevor Mulqueen to give Sunderland the 1-0 lead early on.
Sunderland continued to pressure North Carolina in the early stages of the game with crisp passing and fluid play-making. But the Dead Whales created some chances of their own. Oalex Anderson, Jr. and Garrett McLaughlin tried to make the magic happen 10 minutes in when Anderson drove deep into the attacking end and tried to find McLaughlin at the far post, but McLaughlin couldn’t get his foot to it to finish the play.
The visitors doubled the lead in the 14th minute off a set piece. Patrick Roberts delivered a perfect corner kick high into the box, and Danny Batth slipped the defense and climbed the ladder for a fantastic header that Mulqueen could do nothing about.
McLaughlin and Anderson teamed up again, looking to pull one back for the home team with some nifty give-and-go work through midfield. Anderson drove through the Black Cats’ defense, but his shot was blocked out for a corner kick.
But Sunderland was on a roll in the first half and would not be stopped. After a scrum at midfield, Jack Clarke came away with the ball. He found Roberts, who crawled back to his feet after going down in the initial scrum. Roberts had plenty of space to work with, and he threaded a right-footed shot past Mulqueen to make it 3-0.
BLACK CATS—GOOD LUCK
The Black Cats got a little bit of good luck, courtesy of the officials in first-half stoppage time. After Nelson Flores Blanco made a goal-saving slide tackle to stop Clarke from escorting the ball into the net.
But just on the brink of halftime, the ball was played through midfield with two Sunderland players who were clearly offside. Credit to Clarke for some heads-up play: the assistant referee never raised the offside flag, and Clarke was able to curl the ball around Mulqueen for a commanding 4-0 lead.
SECOND HALF SURGE FOR NORTH CAROLINA
The start of the second half saw a shift change for North Carolina FC. Marvin Mariche, who got his first start for NCFC, came out of the game, along with Anderson, McLaughlin, Luis Arriaga, Chris Lue Young, and Daniel Navarro.
Kyrome Lumsden, who signed his first pro contract with North Carolina just days before, made his professional debut at halftime. Also entering the game were Rafa Mentzingen, Raheem Somersall, Max Flick, Preston Popp, and D.J. Benton.
The fresh legs brought new energy to the Dead Whales, and it was Mentzingen who wasted no time in getting his team on the board in the second half.
Louis Pérez picked up the ball deep in the defensive end and spotted Mentzingen motoring down the opposite flank. He deftly delivered the long ball right into Rafa’s path. The Brazilian cut toward the Sunderland box before deciding he’d just uncork a shot from the top corner that ripped past Anthony Patterson, making it 4-1in the 52nd minute.
Mentzingen was looking for his brace four minutes later when Pérez picked off a clearing pass from the Sunderland defense. He drove in a few steps before turning the ball back to Rafa, who was hustling toward the box. Mentzingen tried another rocket from distance, but this time the ball skimmed over the goal.
Good transition play from North Carolina set up Pérez for the next goal. Popp came up with the takeaway in the defensive midfield and, once he ran into traffic, sent the outlet to Somersall. He laid the ball into the path of Pérez, who sliced his way through Sunderland’s defense and finished it off with a breathtaking strike that Patterson had no chance at.
Though NCFC created plenty of chances on the night, that would be the final goal of the game. Sunderland finished their tour of the States with a 4-2 win.
NO REPELLANT FOR THE INJURY BUG
Bradford was forced to make a substitution early in the match when Shak Adams was left clutching his knee after a challenge with Rigg in the seventh minute. After some treatment on the field, Adams tried to stay in the game but had to make way for Pérez in the 13th minute.
The injury bug stung Sunderland as well in the first half, with goal scorer Matete picking up a knock about 30 minutes in and defender Jenson Seelt hobbled off just before halftime.
A SLEW OF DEBUTS
Bradford made one final wholesale substitution late in the game, giving several trialist and academy players the opportunity to gain valuable experience as well as getting new and returning injured players an opportunity for a few touches.
Also seeing their first action for NCFC were Raul Avalos and Danny Vale.
“It’s something we’ve been doing for many years. You know, I think of guys who played against West Ham way back to Manny Perez and D.J. Taylor…these guys are coming through the academy and now it’s an opportunity to play,” Bradford said after the game.
He was pleased with what he saw from the younger players, “I thought, to a player—Raul Avalos, Danny Vale…Kyrome, obviously, all the young guys did really well when they came on and brought energy to the game.”
NEXT UP FOR NCFC
It’s a quick turnaround for North Carolina as they face the Northern Colorado Hailstorm on Wednesday, July 26 at 7:00 p.m. NoCo has come on strong in the month of July and sits at the top of the USL League One table, while NCFC is currently in fourth. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC: (4-4-2): T. Mulqueen; C. Lue Young, D. Garcia, D. Navarro©, N. Flores Blanco; L. Arriaga, M. Maldonado, M. Mariche, S. Adams; O. Anderson Jr., G. McLaughlin
Sunderland AFC: A. Patterson; Z. Johnson, D. Batth, J. Seelt; L. Gooch©, J. Matete, J. Bellingham, C. Rigg, J. Clarke; J. Bennette
North Carolina FC: 2
Sunderland AFC: 4
North Carolina FC: R. Mentzingen (L. Pérez) 52’; L. Pérez (R. Somersall) 59’
Sunderland AFC: J. Matete (C. Rigg) 5’; D. Batth (J. Clarke) 14’; P. Roberts (J. Clarke) 44’; J. Clarke (C. Rigg) 45+’