North Carolina FC 2 – 0 Northern Colorado Hailstorm
CARY, NC— Two goals. Three massive points.
Northern Colorado Hailstorm had a 12-game unbeaten streak coming into Wednesday night’s visit to WakeMed Soccer Park. Ninety minutes and some stoppage time later, their streak had come to an end, and North Carolina FC moved back up the table into second place.
“Everybody knew what was on the line and I think…the whole team did their part,” Christian Lue Young said after the shutout win.
TOTAL TEAM FOCUS
While no one was letting it go to their heads, Wednesday night’s effort was as close to perfection as North Carolina FC has come so far in the 2023 season.
Head coach John Bradford said that started during the week on the training ground.
“This was maybe our most focused and concentrated week of training,” he reflected in his post-game remarks. “You know, the last three training sessions, I thought the guys were excellent in terms of their mindset and how they did, and it showed tonight.
LEAVING IT LATE BUT MAKING ‘EM COUNT
For a 2-0 scoreline, NCFC certainly had chances to put more on the board throughout the evening.
Seven minutes in, Enok Kwakwa upended Nelson Flores Blanco on the edge of the penalty area. Louis Pérez and Rafa Mentzingen lined up for the close-in free kick. Mentzingen took the kick, but his effort skiffed over the goal.
Later, in the 19th minute, Oalex Anderson, Jr., took on the Hailstorm defense and drove toward the end line. He was taken down in the penalty area, and the referee immediately pointed at the penalty spot. McLaughlin took the spot kick and got plenty behind the shot, but he went up the middle, and Edward Delgado made the save to keep the game scoreless.
North Carolina kept the pressure on the Colorado defense, and Anderson thought he had the game’s first goal on his boot after Mentzingen intercepted the ball and midfield and laid it off to him. Anderson took a couple of touches to clear some space in front of him and let loose a laser that was ticketed for the bottom corner but just barely missed the target.
Pérez broke the deadlock in the 45th minute off another set piece from about 30 yards out. After conspiring with Mentzingen, Pérez launched a rocket over the NoCo wall. Delgado got his hands on it, but the shot came in too hot, and the home team was finally on the board on the brink of halftime.
The Hailstorm pushed for the equalizer throughout the second half, but NCFC remained focused and organized, snuffing out any scoring attempt Northern Colorado managed to generate.
Still, you don’t want to let a team as hot as NoCo, with a Golden Boot leader in Trevor Amann, hang around without putting the game away.
Late in second-half stoppage time, Colorado won a couple of corner kick opportunities and flooded the box with white shirts. Delgado came upfield for the set piece, but only as far as the center circle. On the second corner kick, the ball pinged around the box before coming out to Mikey Maldonado. Under pressure, Maldonado laid the ball off to Lue Young, who lofted a breathtaking ball that Anderson caught up to at midfield.
With Delgado still way out of his goal, Anderson beat his defender and had acres of space to create his scoring opportunity. He pushed the ball around Delgado, who tried in vain to make himself big, and finished it off with the tap-in to double the Dead Whales’ lead and close out the game.
FIRST CAREER CLEAN SHEET
First-year goalkeeper Trevor Mulqueen didn’t have much to do, but he came up with the saves and punch-outs when he needed to on the way to earning his first career shutout.
NEXT UP FOR NCFC
North Carolina FC hits the road for a game in Chattanooga on Saturday, July 29, and at South Georgia Tormenta on Saturday, August 5, before wrapping up their road trip on Wednesday, August 9, at Richmond.
They return home to WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, August 12, to take on the Greenville Triumph. You can get tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): T. Mulqueen; C. Lue Young, G. Fernandes, D. Garcia, N. Flores Blanco; M. Maldonado, R. Somersall, L. Pérez (M. Flick 83’), R. Mentzingen (D.J. Benton 83’); O. Anderson, G. McLaughlin© (L. Arriaga 71’)
Northern Colorado Hailstorm (3-5-2): L. Delgado; B. Rendón (N. Powder 80’), A. Rogers (B. Rosas 87’), R. Cornwall©, B. Evans, L. Opara; E. Kwakwa, J. Dietrich (M. Hernández 45’), S. Lukic (N. Nortey 84’); B. King, T. Amann
North Carolina FC: 2
Northern Colorado Hailstorm: 0
North Carolina FC: L. Pérez (unassisted) 45’; O. Anderson (C. Lue Young) 90+5’
Northern Colorado Hailstorm: none
North Carolina FC: G. Fernandes (YC) 45+4’
Northern Colorado Hailstorm: E. Kwakwa (YC) 7’; L. Opara (YC) 20’; R. Cornwall (YC) 32’; B. Rendón (YC) 78’