CARY, N.C. (Nov. 5, 2023) — North Carolina FC is 2023 USL League One Champion after a thrilling win in penalty kicks (5-4) over the Charlotte Independence following a 1-1 final at WakeMed Soccer Park Sunday evening. Raheem Somersall was named Final MVP to lead NCFC to the first league final championship, and second overall title, in the team’s 17-year history.
After conceding in the first period of added extra time, North Carolina FC evened the score in the 112’ on a recycled blast from Somersall that rocketed the crossbar, glanced off the backside of Independence goalkeeper Austin Pack and trickled into the goal in front of a raucous supporters’ section to force penalties.
In the penalty shootout, Brooks Thompson made a massive save in the second round of penalties and everyone else converted, including the clincher from Luis Arriaga in the fifth frame to ignite the celebration.
Charlotte’s Hector Acosta put the 4,458 fans in attendance into a somber state when he broke the deadlock in the 99th minute, heading home a corner kick from Luis Álvarez at close range.
The back-and-forth extra action came after ninety minutes proved to not be enough to separate the in-state rivals. Charlotte narrowly out-shot NCFC, 19-15, but the hosts put more shots on target, testing the Independence keeper five times.
Charlotte looked likely to steal an opening goal against the run of play in the 29th minute off a second-chance effort from a corner kick, but a combination of Mikey Maldonado and David Garcia blocked the shots on their way through a scrum of players.
A cagey first half ended 0-0, with both sides nearly even on shots with the Independence leading 8-7 and both teams finding the target twice.
Garrett McLaughlin forced an impressive save out of the Independence keeper in the 54th minute, knocking a shot goalward after Oalex Anderson headed the ball down at the back post.
- North Carolina scored in the last 22 games of the season, their longest run of games with a goal in the competition (since at least 2019/2020).
- North Carolina FC finishes a worst-to-first turnaround in their final season in USL League One. The team will compete in the USL Championship, United States’ second division, beginning in 2024.
NCFC (3-4-2-1): Brooks Thompson, Nelson Flores Blanco, Gustavo Fernandes, David Garcia, Christian Lue Young, Louis Perez, Mikey Maldonado, Raheem Somersall, Rafa Mentzingen (Luis Arriaga –100’), Oalex Anderson (Jaden Servania – 82’), Garrett McLaughlin © (Nathan Ntalu – 100’)
Subs Not Used: Daniel Navarro, Tor Saunders, DJ Benton, Max Flick,
CLT (4-2-3-1): Austin Pack, Avionne Flanagan, Nick Spielman, Héctor Acosta, Joel Johnson, Omar Ciss, Bachir Ndiaye (Rayan Djedje – 91’), Tresor Mbuyu (Fabrice Ngah – 112’), Gabriel Obertan (Brad Dunwell – 112’), Miguel Ibarra © (Luis Álvarez – 81’), Khori Bennett (Dane Kelly – 75’)
Subs Not Used: Shalom Dutey, Matt Levy
NCFC: A. Pack (OG) – 111’
CLT: H. Acosta – 99’ (L. Álvarez)
Round One (1-1)– CLT: D. Kelly (successful), NCFC: L. Perez (successful)
Round Two (1-2) – CLT: J. Johnson (saved), NCFC: J. Servania (successful)
Round Three (2-3) – CLT: H. Acosta (successful), NCFC: D. Navarro (successful)
Round Four (3-4) – CLT: L. Alvarez Escoto (successful), NCFC: M. Maldonado (successful)
Round Five (4-5) – CLT: N. Spielman (successful), NCFC: L. Arriaga (successful)
NCFC: L. Perez – 86’, N. Ntalu – 108’
CLT: A. Flanagan – 71’, T. Mbuyu – 88’