North Carolina FC 1 –2 Northern Colorado Hailstorm
CARY, NC— WakeMed Soccer Park seems to be the place where streaks end for Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC. When the team last met here one month ago, NCFC snapped the Hailstorm’s unbeaten streak. Since then, the teams have been on opposite trajectories, with North Carolina going unbeaten in 10 games and the Hailstorm not winning any games in a month.
Both NCFC’s unbeaten streak and Northern Colorado’s winless streak came to an end Saturday night as the Hailstorm held off North Carolina for a 2-1 win.
NOT THEIR NIGHT
The soupy air at WakeMed Soccer Park made for an uncharacteristically low-energy match where North Carolina struggled to get their intensity level where they wanted it.
The frustration was evident in head coach John Bradford’s demeanor and remarks after the game.
“Obviously, we want to try to get points from every game. I’m disappointed in the loss…the first half in general just lacked desire and lacked energy,” he said.
While Northern Colorado also appeared to be struggling to generate energy, they were a little sharper in challenges and creating scoring opportunities, particularly in the first half.
They drew first blood in the 27th minute. The ball was played through to Noah Powder, who appeared to be offside. But the assistant referee never raised his flag, and no whistle came. Meanwhile, Powder laid off a pass to Trevor Amann, who knocked it past Brooks Thompson to pad his Golden Boot lead and put Northern Colorado on top before the half-hour mark.
NCFC wasn’t without scoring opportunities in the opening 45 minutes. Three minutes after Colorado took the lead, Garrett McLaughlin took delivery of a fantastic lob pass from Gustavo Fernandes right on NoCo’s doorstep. But McLaughlin’s header dropped right into the arms of goalkeeper Lalo Delgado keeping North Carolina off the scoreboard.
A BETTER START IN THE SECOND HALF
A little rest and hydration during halftime seemed to be just what the Dead Whales needed as they came out in the second half with greater intensity. Bradford also brought Louis Pérez on for Oalex Anderson Jr., who was effectively neutralized by the Northern Colorado defense in the first half.
Pérez didn’t waste time giving the Northern Colorado defense problems, shaking himself loose from his defender and getting on top of a header that nearly pulled NCFC level in the 49th minute. But again, Delgado came up with the save.
“We came out really slowly,” midfielder Jaden Servania said after the game. “And that was the main thing talking [at] halftime, we’ve got to have more energy, work harder than that, and everything else falls into place.”
“For the first 20 minutes of the second half, it was all us,” Bradford noted. “It was everything that we wanted to try to be able to play through and do well with.
“Louis brought energy…we changed the formation and tried to answer some of the issues we were having defensively in the first half in the center of the park.”
FIRST GOAL FOR DAVID GARCIA
There’s no question that Servania has been a spark for the NCFC attack since he returned from injury. Over the last two games, his pinpoint accuracy serving balls in—particularly on corner kicks—has created several scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Case in point: Servania’s 52nd-minute corner kick was placed perfectly for David Garcia to get up over the NoCo defender and beat Delgado with a header for his first professional goal. It also brought NCFC level, but they were going to have to maintain that high intensity for another 40-plus minutes.
“I feel like I’ve been looking for it the whole season; I guess today was the day,” Garcia said of his goal. “Obviously, I’m happy because of the goal, but I’d rather win; that’s the first thing for us. So, a little bit upset about that; I think we didn’t play our best today. I don’t think [Northern Colorado] were better than us. I just think we weren’t there, we didn’t really show up, and hopefully we come back.”
Ninety seconds later, Pérez looked like he had the go-ahead goal locked and loaded when he blasted a shot from long distance that had Delgado beat but whistled just wide of the goal.
A MOMENT OF LET-UP ENDS IN A LETDOWN
The visitors regained the advantage in the 64th minute off of a good build-up play from the Hailstorm coupled with a momentary defensive letdown. Stefan Lukic popped the ball over the middle of the field to Bruno Rendon in the box. Rendon had shaken off his defender and had the time and space he needed to settle the ball and fire a shot past Thompson for the 2-1 lead.
Although they were understandably deflated by the goal, North Carolina pushed for the equalizer through the final 35 minutes.
The pressure on Northern Colorado’s defense yielded some set-piece opportunities late in the game, including a stoppage time corner kick that nearly resulted in a brace for Garcia, but he just missed the connection amid the scrum.
It wasn’t the result or performance the team wanted, but they remain at the top of the league table. The mood after the game was to glean useful lessons from the evening and put the rest of it in the rear-view mirror.
“…this group has been super connected the entire year and stuck together and figured out ways to play, and, so, tonight wasn’t our night, and we move on,” Bradford said.
NEXT UP FOR NCFC
North Carolina FC will face Central Valley Fuego in the first game of a double-header with the North Carolina Courage on Saturday, September 2nd. NCFC/Central Valley kicks off at 4:00 p.m., and the Courage/Gotham game follows at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): B. Thompson; C. Lue Young, G. Fernandes, D. Garcia, N. Flores Blanco; M. Maldonado, R. Somersall, J. Servania, R. Mentzingen; O. Anderson (L. Pérez 45’), G. McLaughlin©
Northern Colorado Hailstorm (3-5-2): L. Delgado; L. Opara, A. Rogers, L. Folla, N. Powder; N. Nortey ©, J. Dietrich (M. Clarke 82’), B. Rendon, B. King (M. Hernández 61’); S. Lukic (D. Robles 75’), T. Amann
North Carolina FC: 1
Northern Colorado Hailstorm: 2
North Carolina FC: D. Garcia (J. Servania) 52’
Northern Colorado Hailstorm: T. Amann (N. Powder) 27’; B. Rendon (S. Lukic) 64’
North Carolina FC: J. Servania (YC) 24’; M. Maldonado (YC) 67’; L. Pérez (YC) 70’
Northern Colorado Hailstorm: N. Nortey (YC) 48’; L. Delgado (YC) 73’; J. Dietrich (YC) 90+7’