Richmond Kickers 1 – 3 North Carolina FC
RICHMOND, VA— The brief from John Bradford and Mikey Maldonado after last week’s victory over Greenville was simple: Come out of the gate with more intensity and bring the quality from the training ground into the game for 90 minutes.
North Carolina FC made their final trip to Richmond and, making the most out of 38% possession, came away with a dominating 3-1 victory Saturday night.
And, taking Maldonado’s words to heart, every goal for NCFC was high quality. They resulted from solid execution on set pieces and team effort that kept the pressure on Richmond’s defense, creating second and third-phase opportunities.
AS THE SMOKE CLEARED, NCFC WAS ON THE FRONT FOOT
North Carolina put the pressure on from the opening kickoff earning a corner kick 30 seconds into the game—before the red smoke had cleared from the Kickers supporters section. Richmond managed a first-phase clearance, but the ball pinged back out to Rafa Mentzingen, whose attempt had too much thrust under it and sailed over the bar.
But the visitors kept pressing the Roos back line, earning another early corner kick. Jaden Servania again delivered a perfect ball into the box that found Oalex Anderson Jr., who climbed the ladder and got plenty of power on his flick-on header to leave Richmond goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald flat-footed. North Carolina had the 1-0 lead 16 minutes in.
They would duplicate the play 10 minutes later, this time with Gustavo Fernandes nodding the ball into the net, but the flag went up for offside, and once again, Fernandes was denied his first career goal. NCFC took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
THE BRACE AND THE BANGER
North Carolina doubled their lead early in the second half when Rafa Mentzingen delivered a perfect ball into the path of Anderson. He took a touch toward the endline and tried the shot from a hard angle that deflected off Nathan Aune past Akira Fitzgerald. The brace boosted Anderson into second place in the Golden Boot race with 11 goals so far this year.
Despite needing points to get themselves back in the playoff hunt, North Carolina piled on the pressure after Anderson’s second tally, pinning the Roos in their defensive end of the field for the next several minutes.
MORE BIG PLAYS FROM BROOKS THOMPSON
North Carolina had a couple of nervy moments in the first half, conceding set-piece plays in the danger zone. In the 29th minute, as NCFC tried to clear the ball out of their box, it bounced off Fernandes’ bicep. The handball occurred just outside the box, but it was still a tantalizing opportunity for Richmond.
Nil Vinyals took the free kick that deflected off of the Dead Whales’ wall and found its way to the toe of Emiliano Terzaghi, but the veteran didn’t get enough of a toe poke on the ball, and North Carolina goalkeeper Brooks Thompson bounced back to make a huge stop.
Thompson would come up big in second-half stoppage time when a Richmond attempt came in with some wicked aerial spin forcing the goalkeeper to play it safe and bat the ball away from the top corner.
Maldonado went down after getting whacked in the head by João Gomiero in the 62nd minute. He was able to continue in the game after receiving treatment from the training staff and, ultimately, got the best possible revenge.
That was made possible by some great team build-up out of midfield that got Garrett McLaughlin clear to take a screamer of a shot from just outside the Richmond box. Fitzgerald got a paw on it and pushed it aside, but it came to Luis Arriaga on the other side of the box.
Arriaga reset the play by dribbling past the top of the box and lofting the ball across to Mentzingen. Rafa drove to the goal line and crossed the ball back to the six-yard box, where Richmond cleared it—right into the path of Maldonado, who had a full head of steam and some C-4 explosives in his boot. Fitzgerald made a valiant attempt on the dive, but he could do nothing to stop Maldonado from recording his first goal of the season in the 81st minute.
A TEETH-GRINDING FINISH
Being down 3-0 didn’t mean Richmond was ready to quit on the game. They put on a late push for a goal to get back into the game.
Their pressure yielded a late corner kick when Christian Lue Young challenged Vinyals for the ball, and it appeared the ball went off of the Richmond player over the goal line. Richmond was awarded the corner kick, and Vinyals sent the ball to the center of the six-yard box for Simon Fitch, who headed the ball past Thompson to spoil the clean sheet.
But there was some last-minute drama at the other end, too, when late-game substitute Preston Popp got sprung at midfield. With fresh legs and the ball at his feet, he got behind the Kickers defense and went 1v1 with Fitzgerald, but the veteran keeper got just enough of his hand on the ball to direct it wide.
There may be some discussion on the training ground about conceding another late goal, but North Carolina FC came away with three points in what is likely to be their final trip to Richmond for the foreseeable future.
NEXT UP FOR NCFC
North Carolina FC returns to WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, August 26, to host Northern Colorado Hailstorm. Then, on Saturday, September 2, they take on Central Valley Fuego FC in the first game of a double-header with the North Carolina Courage. Kickoff is 4:00 pm, with the Courage v Gotham matchup set for 7:30. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): B. Thompson; C. Lue Young, G. Fernandes, D. García, N. Flores Blanco; R. Mentzingen (M. Flick 89’), M. Maldonado, R. Somersall, J. Servania (L. Arriaga 76’); O. Anderson (P. Popp 89’), G. McLaughlin© (D.J. Benton 83’)
Richmond Kickers: A. Fitzgerald; S. Fitch, N. Aune, D. Barnathan, M. Hornsby; J. Silva Gomiero (C. O’Dwyer 71’), Z. Morán-Correa, N. Vinyals; L. Johnson (L. Pavone 71’), E. Terzaghi© (M. Bentley 82’), R. Sierakowski (B. Howell 82’)
North Carolina FC: 3
Richmond Kickers: 1
North Carolina FC: O. Anderson (J. Servania) 16’; O. Anderson (R. Mentzingen) 53’; M. Maldonado (unassisted) 81’
Richmond Kickers: S. Fitch (N. Vinyals) 86’
North Carolina FC: D. Garcia (YC) 21’; N. Flores Blanco (YC) 30’; J. Servania (YC) 61’; L. Arriaga (YC) 90+6’
Richmond Kickers: J. Silva Gomiero (YC) 62’; Z. Morán Correa (YC) 72’;