After a frustrating loss at home to South Georgia Tormenta on September 16, North Carolina FC headed out west to regroup and bring home six points from stops in Fresno, California, and Windsor, Colorado. NCFC was also looking to regain their position at the top of the USL League One table.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS IN FRESNO
Central Valley Fuego FC 0 – 3 North Carolina FC
The first leg of the western road swing took the Dead Whales to Fresno, CA, for a Wednesday night matchup. With Madison holding Northern Colorado to a scoreless draw, North Carolina had the opportunity to move back to the top of the table with a win over Central Valley Fuego FC (based on goals scored).
It was a spirited start for the home team as they looked to put early pressure on North Carolina, earning two corner kicks in the first eight minutes. NCFC, meanwhile, was shaking off the road dust and getting in their rhythm; five promising scoring opportunities were flagged down for offside in the first 25 minutes of the game.
North Carolina got the breakthrough in the 28th minute when Louis Pérez earned a free kick and took it quickly, sending the ball down the right flank to Nathan Ntalu. After chasing the ball down, he took a touch and, with a look, confirmed that Oalex Anderson Jr. was making the supporting run into the middle of the box. Rolling off the defender’s shoulder, Anderson had plenty of space to get the ball past goalkeeper Paul Lewis to make it 1-0 for North Carolina FC.
A SECOND SHUTOUT FOR BROOKS THOMPSON
One of the main takeaways from the stoppage-time loss to South Georgia Tormenta FC was the need for head coach John Bradford’s team to maintain their focus for a full game. That meant making sure things were buttoned up in their defensive end while hustling on the transition and giving themselves some breathing room on the scoreboard.
Garrett McLaughlin, who came on for Oalex Anderson in the 62nd minute, added a goal 15 minutes later. It was another good buildout attack from North Carolina that started with Gustavo Fernandes winning the ball in the defensive end and Nelson Flores Blanco lobbing a pass to Rafa Mentzingen down the wing. The Brazilian cut inside and laid the ball back to Jaden Servania at the top of the arc. He redirected the ball over to McLaughlin, who did a brilliant job of controlling the ball and holding for a beat, forcing the defender to overcommit. McLaughlin found the seam and beat Lewis with a solid left-footed shot.
Mentzingen put the game on ice in the 81st minute when he converted the penalty kick to make it 3-0 for North Carolina.
HOW THEY LINED UP IN FRESNO
North Carolina FC: (4-4-2): B. Thompson; C. Lue Young, D. Garcia, G. Fernandes, N. Flores Blanco (D.J. Benton 84’); L. Pérez (J. Servania 61’), R. Somersall©, M. Maldonado, R. Mentzingen (M. Flick 84’); O. Anderson Jr. (G. McLaughlin 62’), N. Ntalu (L. Arriaga 68’)
Central Valley Fuego FC (4-4-2): P. Lewis; O. Lemus, F. Dulysse, S. Chavez, R. Cromwell; V. Falck (Z. Vasquez 86’), M. Dabo (J. Williams 72’), J. Carrera-Garcia, J. Partida (R. Cerritos 60’); A. Ruelas (C. Dieye 45’), B. Forbes (Q. Lawal 61’)
BLACKING OUT THE HAILSTORM
Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC 0 – 2 North Carolina FC
After bagging all three points in California, NCFC continued their western swing, heading to Winsor, Colorado, for a top-of-the-table matchup with Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC. NoCo was celebrating “Black-Out Night” in their black alternate kits, but at the end of the game, it was North Carolina who blacked out the home team with another shutout win.
With first place on the line and Union Omaha pecking at their heels, both sides came out of the gate looking for the result.
Oalex Anderson’s tenacious footwork down the left side nearly led to an early goal when he pushed the ball back to Somersall at the top of the box in the fifth minute. Lala Delgado made the initial save but couldn’t control the rebound as it came out to Servania. But Servania was flagged for offside.
GARRETT THE SNIPER
Both teams traded scoring chances at either end throughout the first half, but it would be Garrett McLaughlin putting North Carolina on the board first in the 40th minute.
After earning a free kick at the top of the box, the captain huddled over the ball with Servania and Pérez. Servania served a diversion, sprinting away from the play just before McLaughlin rifled the free kick into the top corner, leaving Delgado flat-footed. McLaughlin noted after the game that his parents were cheering him on in the stands, making the goal even more special for the sniper.
Anderson added an insurance goal in the 58th minute after Somersall swiped the ball from the Hailstorm at midfield and laid the pass into Anderson’s path deep in the NoCo box. Anderson’s composed, professional finish gave North Carolina a big 2-0 lead on the road.
FOCUS FOR THE WIN
With another three points within reach, it was time for the Dead Whales to keep their focus, not just on seeing out the result but also earning their second clean sheet in a row.
Northern Colorado dominated in possession on the night but didn’t record their first—and only—shot on target until the 85th minute when Thompson made a diving save to punch away a Noah Powder free kick.
Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense, and North Carolina kept pressing the Hailstorm in their end during six minutes of stoppage time.
Mentzingen, who came into the game as a substitute in the 88th minute, created two promising scoring chances, one that rolled across the goal in the third minute of stoppage and a right-footed rocket just before the final whistle that Delgado was able to snag.
It was a statement win for North Carolina FC, capping off a successful western swing.
HOW THEY LINED UP IN WINDSOR, CO
North Carolina FC (4-4-2): B. Thompson; C. Lue Young, D. Garcia, G. Fernandes, D.J. Benton; L. Pérez (M. Flick 87’), R. Somersall, M. Maldonado, J. Servania (R. Mentzingen 88’); O. Anderson Jr. (N. Ntalu 75’), G. McLaughlin© (L. Arriaga 86’)
Northern Colorado Hailstorm (4-4-2): L. Delgado; B. Rendón (R. Cornwall 57’), A. Rogers, L. Folla (V. Sabella 74’), L. Opara; N. Powder, N. Nortey ©, J.Dietrich (D. Robles 57’/I. Parra 80’), B.King;; S. Lukic (M. Hernández 45’), T. Amann
NEXT UP FOR North Carolina FC
North Carolina FC has arguably the most important game of the season coming up on Friday, September 29, when they take on second-place Union Omaha at WakeMed Soccer Park. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m., and it’s a game you won’t want to miss! Get your tickets at northcarolinafc.com/tickets.