MATCH RECAP: NCFC Runs Out of Time; Falls to Union Omaha 4-3

Union Omaha 4 – 3 North Carolina FC

OMAHA, NE—For North Carolina FC, Wednesday night’s match against Union Omaha had more ups and downs than a roller coaster.

After dominating play from the opening kickoff, they conceded an early goal to the Owls against the run of play.

Following some near-misses from Jaden Servania, D.J. Benton, and a dangerous header from Gustavo Fernandes, the Dead Whales gave Omaha a free-kick opportunity in the ninth minute. Marco Milanese delivered a spot-on ball to the top of the six-yard box that Pedro Dolabella met with a powerful header to put the home team on top.

But North Carolina FC wasn’t willing to waste some good momentum. Just two minutes later, the Dynamic Duo teamed up for the equalizer. Fernandes, with a good bit of defense, wrestled the ball away from Steeven Dos Santos and laid off a pass to Nelson Flores Blanco. He chipped a long ball over midfield to Oalex Anderson, Jr., who caught Garrett McLaughlin making the supporting run into the box and squared the ball to his attack partner. With a bit of footwork, McLaughlin put Omaha goalkeeper Ian McGrane on his backside before chipping it over him into the net.

NCFC continued to hold the advantage in possession but seemed to have difficulty working with the exceptionally narrow field at Werner Park while the Owls grew into the game and started bottlenecking the channels and forcing North Carolina outside.

Just as it seemed the teams would carry a 1-1 deadlock into the locker room, Union Omaha took the lead late in stoppage time. At the midfield line, Dos Santos chipped the ball ahead to Dion Acoff, who drove deep in the attacking zone before dishing the ball back to the center of the six-yard box. The pass deflected off Dolabella into the path of Joe Brito, who had an easy finish.


North Carolina had a hill to climb at the start of the second half, but nothing insurmountable for this team. They came out with much of the same energy that they started the game with but got bogged down by the same issues that frustrated them late in the first half.

Dos Santos added to Omaha’s lead in the 59th minute by doing what brought them success throughout the game: clogging the passing channels and intercepting NCFC passes. Joe Gallardo disrupted a North Carolina build up at midfield and lofted the ball to Dos Santos, who drove in on Brooks Thompson. With Mikey Maldonado hustling over to help defend, Dos Santos rifled the ball past Thompson into the net.

The hole got deeper for the Dead Whales in the 75th minute after the Owls regained possession at midfield and worked the ball over to substitute Noe Meza, who slammed the ball past Thompson to raise the lead to 4-1.


Head coach John Bradford made a full line change of subs in the 78th minute, swapping in Preston Popp, Nathan Ntalu, Max Flick, and Luke Croll for McLaughlin, Anderson, Louis Pérez, and David Garcia.

Their energy provided some late-game fireworks starting with Rafa Mentzingen’s 85th-minute rocket from the top of the box.

Pushing hard to rescue a point on the night, NCFC pressed the Omaha defense with seven-plus minutes of stoppage time to work with.

In the fourth minute of stoppage, North Carolina took advantage of some more lax defense from Union Omaha, with Mentzingen collecting the ball at midfield and laying it off to Maldonado, who immediately switched the ball to Blanco, flying down the opposite flank. He sent a bounce pass across the box right into the path of an unmarked Popp, who grabbed his first professional goal.

But the clock ran out on North Carolina FC’s comeback, and they fell to Union Omaha 4-3.


Both the first and second half of the match ended with at least seven minutes of stoppage time, primarily due to multiple hydration breaks. Although the temperatures were relatively mild, smoke from the wildfires in Canada diminished the air quality, prompting the extra hydration breaks.


NCFC moves on to Greenville on Saturday, September 9th, to take on the Triumph. They return to WakeMed Soccer Park on September 16th to face South Georgia Tormenta. Get your tickets at

North Carolina FC (4-4-2): B. Thompson; D.J. Benton, D. Garcia (L. Croll 78’), G. Fernandes, N. Flores Blanco; L. Pérez (M. Flick 78’), M. Maldonado, L. Arriaga (R. Mentzingen 71’), J. Servania; O. Anderson Jr. (N. Ntalu 78’), G. McLaughlin © (P. Popp 78’)

Union Omaha: I. McGrane; D. Acoff (A. Holt 82’), A. Souahy, M. Milanese, S. Brewer; J. Scearce ©, C. Doyle; J. Gallardo (N. Meza 72’), P. Dolabella (L. Gil 72’), J. Brito (E. Gordon 82’); S. Dos Santos (A. Steinwascher 86’)

North Carolina FC: 3
Union Omaha: 4

North Carolina FC: G. McLaughlin (O. Anderson) 11’; R. Mentzingen (J. Servania) 85’; P. Popp (N. Flores Blanco) 90+4’
Union Omaha: P. Dolabella (M. Milanese) 9’; J. Brito (P. Dolabella) 45+2’; S. Dos Santos (J. Gallardo) 59’; N. Meza (L. Gil) 75’

North Carolina FC: M. Maldonado (YC ) 12’; G. Fernandes (YC) 15’; L. Arriaga (YC) 49’; D.J. Benton (YC) 69’; L. Croll (YC) 90+3’
Union Omaha: J. Scearce (YC) 19’; S. Brewer (YC) 54’; P. Dolabella (YC) 70’; S. Dos Santos (YC) 83’

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