Richmond Kickers 2 – 2 North Carolina FC
RICHMOND, VA— North Carolina FC wrapped up a three-game road trip with a jaunt up I-95 to Richmond, VA, to take on their rivals, the Richmond Kickers.
NCFC was riding a seven-game unbeaten streak heading into the mid-week tilt and looked to solidify their position at the top of the table, while the Kickers needed points to move into a playoff position.
The Dead Whales started strong, holding the Kickers in their defensive third in the game’s opening minutes. But, outside of a couple of chances for Rafa Mentzingen, the pressure wasn’t generating scoring opportunities, and the Kickers eventually got their legs into the game and made NCFC defend.
That resulted in the visitors conceding several set-piece plays in the first half. Although North Carolina FC defended most of them well, it was a corner kick that led to the opening goal.
After winning the corner kick, Nil Vinyals launched the ball toward the near post looking for a teammate to get a redirect on net. Emiliano Terzaghi climbed the ladder to beat the defender with the header that whizzed by Brooks Thompson to the far corner, giving Richmond the lead in the 33rd minute.
But it didn’t take long for North Carolina to answer back. Three minutes later, Mikey Maldonado worked the ball through midfield and found Nelson Flores Blanco on the flank. Blanco lofted a gorgeous ball into the box for Garrett McLaughlin, who leaped over his defender and nodded the ball down and into the net past Akira Fitzgerald to even the score.
THE CANARIES WERE FLYING IN THE FIRST HALF
It’s not surprising that a matchup between these two teams would get spicy, and Wednesday’s game was no exception. North Carolina saw a flock of canary-colored cards flying at them in the first half, with yellows given to Louis Pérez, David Garcia, Garrett McLaughlin, and Raheem Somersall.
Things got especially chippy late in the first half when McLaughlin seemed to be at the center of a heated discussion with several Kickers on the sideline as D.J. Benton waited to take a throw-in. Eventually, Terzaghi pulled on McLaughlin’s shirt, and the NCFC forward turned around and gave the Richmond forward a shove that sent him to the ground. McLaughlin was the only player to see a yellow card out of that mini-melee.
THREE POINTS IN REACH BUT NOT QUITE IN NCFC’S GRASP
North Carolina nearly took the lead early in the second half when Blanco worked the ball down the flank and rolled it into the box for Mentzingen. He pushed back toward McLaughlin, who got his toe on the ball. An odd roll toward the net forced Fitzgerald to make a full-stretch dive to his left. The Kickers goalkeeper just got enough of his fingertips to the ball to push it aside.
But NCFC was pushing for the go-ahead tally and won a corner kick in the 60th minute. Mentzingen took the corner, and a Richmond defender cleared the ball off the endline but only as far as Benton. Benton laid the ball off for Mentzingen off the left side of the box, and he launched the cross back in. Originally, it appeared that Gustavo Fernandes had the header for his first goal, but officials later awarded it as an own goal by Michael Hornsby. Either way, North Carolina FC had the 2-1 lead with half an hour plus stoppage left to play.
Immediately off the restart, NCFC put pressure on Fitzgerald and his defense with chances from McLaughlin and Luis Arriaga, but the Roo in red made both stops to keep his team in the game.
From there, Richmond started pushing for the equalizer and didn’t let up for the rest of the half. North Carolina’s defense did well to close down space deep in their defensive end as the referee added six agonizing minutes of stoppage time.
In the 96th minute, Nathan Aune took another long throw-in that sailed into the box. David Garcia and Chandler O’Dwyer challenged each other for the ball in the air. It appeared to nick off of a head and landed right in front of Hornsby, whose one-timer ripped the back of the net. Richmond managed to steal a point from the league leaders at the death.
NEXT UP FOR NCFC
The Dead Whales return to the Boneyard for a match against Greenville Triumph SC on Saturday, August 12 at 7:00 p.m. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets. North Carolina and Richmond will face each other again back in the River City on Saturday, August 19. Barring the teams meeting up in the playoffs, it will be the last time they meet in USL League One play, with North Carolina FC making the move back to USL Championship in 2024.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): B. Thompson; D.J. Benton (P. Popp 87’), G. Fernandes, D. García, N. Flores Blanco; R. Somersall, M. Maldonado, L. Pérez (M. Flick 87’), L. Arriaga; R. Mentzingen (O. Anderson 66’), G. McLaughlin© (C. Lue Young 74’)
Richmond Kickers: A. Fitzgerald; S. Fitch, N. Aune, D. Barnathan, M. Hornsby; J. Sukow (J. Silva 64’), Z. Morán-Correa (C. O’Dwyer 64’), N. Vinyals; M. Bentley (O. Gordon 72’), E. Terzaghi©, R. Sierakowski
North Carolina FC: 2
Richmond Kickers: 2
North Carolina FC: G. McLaughlin (N. Flores Blanco) 36’; Own Goal (M. Hornsby) 60’
Richmond Kickers: E. Terzaghi (N. Vinyals) 33’; M. Hornsby (unassisted) 90+6’
North Carolina FC: L. Pérez (YC) 18’; D. Garcia (YC) 28’; G. McLaughlin (YC) 44’; R. Somersall (YC) 45+2’; P. Popp (YC) 89’
Richmond Kickers: D. Barnathan (YC) 75’