CARY, N.C. (March 17, 2023) — North Carolina FC fell in the 2023 USL League One opener, 0-1, to the reigning league champions – South Georgia Tormenta – at a rainy WakeMed Soccer Park in front of 3,429 fans on Friday night. NCFC drops to 0-0-1 to start the year while Tormenta improves to 1-0-0.
North Carolina FC held an advantage in a bulk of the statistics Friday night with 63% of possession, an 11-3 edge in shots and 6-2 advantage in corners. After NCFC built up an early run of possession, Tormenta scored against the run of play around the half-hour mark. They gained possession at midfield and John Murphy Jr. sent an aerial ball down the right flank to Mukwelle Akale, who was paces beyond the NCFC defense.
The back line beckoned for offside in unison, but the flag stayed down and Akale was able to collect and finish brilliantly into the far side-netting for what would prove to be the only score of the night.
Jaden Servania and Oalex Anderson each had great looks on frame in the second half as NCFC sought the equalizer, but veteran goalkeeper Pablo Jara was able to stretch to keep the home side from leveling.
- Friday’s match was the opening match of the USL League One 2023 season
- Newly signed Daniel Navarro wore the captain’s armband for NCFC in their season opener
- Five newcomers started for North Carolina FC on Friday night
Next Match: North Carolina FC returns to action on April 1 when they host league newcomer Lexington SC at WakeMed Soccer Park with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m. ET. North Carolina FC has an unexpected off week because flooding in California has postponed their matchup with Central Valley Fuego, which had been scheduled for March 22.
Head Coach John Bradford
On the match…
“The initial impression is disappointed with the end result obviously. To start the season with something other than three points and a win at home is obviously not what we wanted. But I think there’s a lot of encouraging points to the way that we played and the way the guys fought. Any moment in the second half it felt like we were going to equalize and put ourselves right back into the game, and I think there’s a lot to build on for us.”
On Daniel Navarro captaining the team and his performance…
“For us to bring in [Daniel] Navarro was intentional. Somebody that’s got quality, has experience, is respected, and I thought he played excellent this evening and captained the side well. I think for him that’s something to build on too. A lot of these guys are still gelling and getting to know one another, and Navarro is a very big piece of bringing these guys together.”
On Nico Rincon…
“That’s what Nico brings. Obviously immense quality, but also just the work rate and the energy is there. He’s not waiting for the ball to come to him, he’s trying to go make something happen. He was trying to equalize for his team and find a goal. You know if the game goes a little different then he might find himself [subbed in] a little bit earlier, but it’s a credit to his maturity as well to stay focused and then be able to try to have an impact on the match.”
Forward Rafa Mentzingen
On the match…
“It was a tough game, really frustrating. I feel like we put [together] a solid 90 minutes and one mistake, one ball in behind, we got caught, they score, 1-0 early on. And then they dropped 11 guys behind the ball, and to try to break it down we couldn’t. We had a couple opportunities, got unlucky, but you have to keep working hard and [get] three points next time.”
On making his NCFC debut…
“It was amazing. Even with the rain, the crowd was amazing, they support us so much. It felt good, I feel like we’re can improve so much once we get chemistry, you can already see a little bit of what we can do and we’ve got to keep building from that.”
On his performance…
“I think I did fine, I could be sharper. It was tough because they had 11 guys behind the ball, it was so compact. It was just white jerseys and it was tough to break a team [down] that was so deep in their half. We’ve got to come up with solutions next time, maybe shoot from distance, better set pieces, I don’t know. We’ve got to find a way.”
Midfielder Mikey Maldonado
On his first NCFC match…
“First of all it’s a blessing to play. There’s nothing else I can say, it’s a blessing to play. The love the fans [have] here, they’re very vocal, they were behind us the whole 90 minutes plus. It was a great feeling to get the first start, of course not the result we wanted but we have a long season ahead of us, we’ll be back for sure.”
On the team’s attacking spell in the second half…
“In preseason we went down a couple times and the biggest thing that we always said was never give up. That was the biggest thing in the locker room, never give up. Especially in this league. People score in the first minute, people score in the last minute, so we’re trying to make it something drilled into us to never give up.”
On the team’s chemistry…
“From day one not knowing names to now having nicknames, everyone’s smiling. The chemistry’s gonna be there, it’s not of course where we want it but, [it was the] first game of the season. We got 31 more games or something like that, so we’ve got plenty of time to turn it around.”
NC (4-4-2): Nicholas Holliday, DJ Benton, Daniel Navarro © (Nicolas Rincon – 89’), Gustavo Fernandes, Nelson Flores Blanco, Luis Arriaga, Mikey Maldonado, Rafael Mentzingen, Jaden Servania, Oalex Anderson (Shakeem Adams – 75’), Preston Popp (Garrett McLaughlin – 56’)
Subs Not Used: Tor Saunders, Max Flick, Christian Lue Young, Raheem Somersall
TRM (4-3-3): Pablo Jara ©, Nick Akoto, Jake Dengler, Preston Kilwien, Davey Mason (Deshawon Nembhard – 80’), Tobias Otieno, Pedro Fonseca (Matheus Cassini – 66’), John Murphy Jr. (Christopher Heckenberg – 66’), Mukwelle Akale (Elijiah Amo – 80’), Andrew Akindele (Kingsford Adjei – 62’), Jackson Khoury
Subs Not Used: TJ Bush, Collin Mocyunas
TRM: M. Akale – 35’
NC: O. Anderson – 44’; N. Rincon – 90+2’
TRM: P. Fonseca – 17’, C. Heckenberg – 81’, Matheus Cassini – 86’