MATCH RECAP: Mistakes Prove Costly in North Carolina FC’s Stoppage Time Loss to Tormenta

North Carolina FC 2 – 3 South Georgia Tormenta FC

The GPS navigation to a playoff spot for North Carolina FC needed a bit of a recalculation, but by the end of Saturday night, they made it into the playoffs.

Going into the weekend, the math was simple enough: Win, and NCFC is in. But first, they would have to get past South Georgia Tormenta FC, a team looking to get back on form as the USL League One season starts down the home stretch.


NCFC came out of the gate hot and put the Ibises back on their heels for the first 15 minutes of the game. They had a golden opportunity to go ahead in the third minute when Rafa Mentzingen put pressure on Tormenta’s Tobias Otieno at the top of the box. After forcing him inside, Garrett McLaughlin came over to pester Otieno some more, and Nathan Ntalu got a toe poke in to get the ball over to McLaughlin. With goalkeeper Pablo Jara coming off his line, McLaughlin had to get the shot off quickly, but Jara was there with the save.

Mentzingen ran down the rebound and served it back in for Ntalu, whose shot was deflected by the defense over the goal. North Carolina forced Tormenta to concede several set-piece opportunities from corner kicks in the opening minutes but struggled to make the finishing touch to take the lead.

That gave South Georgia time to get their legs in the game, something you don’t want to do with a team that fast and explosive.


Tormenta fired their first warning shot in the 19th minute when Davey Mason won the ball at midfield and fed the pass through to Pedro Fonseca. He broke through into space and blasted a shot from the top of the arc that Brooks Thompson tipped over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless.

The Ibises got on the board two minutes later. Nick Akoto broke down the right side and sent the ball across the box to Fonseca, who used his head to redirect the ball to a wide-open Mukwelle Akale, who had an easy diving volley to beat Thompson and give the visitors the lead against the run of play.


Going into halftime down a goal—and wanting to clinch that long-awaited playoff spot at home in front of their supporters—North Carolina needed a strong presence to regain control of the game.

That strong presence was Raheem Somersall.

After a few scary moments near the end of the first half when he went down after a challenge and needed treatment, Somersall came out in the second half a man on a mission.

“Once we got into the locker room at halftime, I took it upon myself to talk to the guys and said we’ve been here before,” he reflected after the game. “This is the type of game where we need to show perseverance. I couldn’t say that and not lead by example.”

With his mom, aunt, sister, and cousin cheering him on in his 50th appearance for NCFC, Somersall made his presence felt all over the field in the second half and, with Oalex Anderson Jr. back from international duty checking in off the bench, got his team back in the game.

He started and finished the play that got NCFC on the board in the 49th minute. After bringing the ball through midfield, he laid off a pass to Mikey Maldonado on the flank. Maldonado lofted the ball toward the box, looking for a teammate, but it was headed clear.

With Anderson scrumming with the Tormenta defense at the top of the box, the ball slipped out toward Somersall, who took a touch and then slammed it past Jara to level the score.

But Somersall and Anderson weren’t done wreaking havoc. In a moment where Tormenta’s defense looked tentative, Somersall intercepted a pass attempt out of the back and spotted Anderson on his left. He picked out his spot and beat Jara with a clean near-post laser that put the Dead Whales on top 2-1 in the 60th minute.

“Even at halftime, he was loud and had energy and wanted the group to respond,” noted head coach John Bradford after the game. “And, you know, he’s a competitor, a warrior type player, so he gave everything he had this evening, which he always does.”


Following Anderson’s goal, Tormenta head coach Ian Cameron was apoplectic. While North Carolina celebrated the go-ahead goal, Cameron gathered his players on the sideline and laid into them, getting up in some players’ faces.

Cameron also brought on Jackson Khoury for Akale in the 64th minute. Between Khoury’s fresh energy and the fire he lit under the Ibises moments before, it was going to take a half hour of total focus from North Carolina to see out the result.

Khoury put his stamp on the game in the 82nd minute when he won the ball from NCFC’s defense. He lost the ball again in the box, but North Carolina couldn’t clear it, and it was right back at his feet. He took another touch to make some space, then hit a low drive that squeezed between Thompson and the post to put the visitors back on level terms.

But South Georgia wasn’t going to be satisfied with a draw. They continued to pressure North Carolina’s defense, forcing Thompson into a couple of huge saves to hang onto the point.

Khoury would figure into the game-winner in stoppage time when he won the ball and nudged it to Chris Heckenberg. He popped the ball into the air, and it was chested down in the NCFC box by Kaziah Sterling. Kingsford Adjei followed the play into the box and was right where he needed to be to gather the ball and banked it into the net off of Thompson, stunning the crowd at WakeMed Soccer Park.

The shocking loss dropped NCFC into third place in the USL League One table, but thanks to Greenville beating One Knoxville, they clinched a spot in the playoffs.


After an impressive showing as a trialist in North Carolina FC’s exhibition game against Sunderland, Nathan Ntalu has continued to impress fans and the coaching staff. He earned his first start Saturday night and looked very comfortable up front with McLaughlin and, later, Anderson.

Ntalu was happy to have his number called as a starter and looked to contribute to their effort to make the playoffs. “Well, obviously, it’s a good feeling to start, to be able to finally contribute to the team,” he said.

“Nathan gave us another quality attacking player,” Bradford said after the game. “I thought Nathan did fine; certainly, brings work rate and ability and all that, and it’s going to be massively important to us as we go down the stretch to have that rotation, to have players we are able to count on and not just having the same 11 out all the time.”


Next up for NCFC is a cross-country trip to Fresno to take on Central Valley Fuego FC on Wednesday, September 20. Then they head to Colorado to challenge the resurging Northern Colorado Hailstorm on Saturday, September 23. They return home on September 29 when Union Omaha makes another visit to WakeMed Soccer Park. Get your tickets for NCFC home games at

North Carolina FC (4-4-2): B. Thompson; C. Lue Young, G. Fernandes, D. Garcia, N. Flores Blanco; L. Pérez (L. Arriaga 75’), M. Maldonado, R. Somersall, R. Mentzingen (M. Flick 75’); N. Ntalu (J. Servania 64’) , G. McLaughlin© (O. Anderson 45’)

South Georgia Tormenta FC (4-4-2): P. Jara ©; N. Akoto, D. Knutson, P. Kilwien, D. Mason (K. Adjei 76’); C. Heckenberg, T. Otieno (J. Murphy 76’), M. Akale (J. Khoury 64’), P. Fonseca; K. Sterling, A. Bousa (E. Amo 76’)

North Carolina FC: 2
South Georgia Tormenta FC: 3

North Carolina FC: R. Somersall (unassisted) 49’; O. Anderson (R. Somersall) 60’;
South Georgia Tormenta FC: M. Akele (P. Fonseca) 21’; J. Khoury (unassisted) 82’; K. Adjei (K. Sterling) 90+4’

North Carolina FC: G. Fernandes (YC) 32’; M. Maldonado (YC) 47’; R. Somersall (YC) 62’
South Georgia Tormenta FC: P. Kilwein (YC) 16’; N. Akoto (YC) 90+2’

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