Cary, NC (July 4, 2019) – North Carolina FC moved up to third place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference and extended its unbeaten run in league play to eight matches with a 1-1 draw against the Charlotte Independence Thursday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Halfway through the 34-game regular season, NCFC holds an 8W-2L-7D record (31 points) and remains unbeaten at home. With Thursday’s result, NCFC is now unbeaten in its last seven competitive matches against the Independence.
“We had a couple of opportunities to get the second goal,” NCFC head coach Dave Sarachan said. “The keeper made a couple saves, we missed a couple chances. I don’t recall too many for them other than the breakaway at the end of the first half and then a few loose balls. They were threatening in front of our goal, but I thought we were more threatening in front of their goal.”
It was a dream start for NCFC, as forward Yamikani Chester struck early with a third-minute goal. Positioned at the back post, the Malawi international finished from just a yard out after forward Donovan Ewolo redirected defender Caleb Duvernay’s cross from the endline.
The goal was Chester’s third of the season, with all of his tallies coming in the last four matches he’s appeared in.
In the 14th minute, Charlotte equalized through forward Niki Jackson, who scored on a breakaway.
Most of the chances fell to NCFC on Thursday, as the home team outshot the visitors 19-5 and had a 10-3 advantage in shots on target. Not long after Jackson’s goal, NCFC nearly regained the advantage in the 17th minute on a dangerous attempt by midfielder Steven Miller.
With nothing separating the two teams at the halftime break, NCFC pushed hard for a decisive goal in the second half, constantly putting the Charlotte defense under pressure. In the 50th minute, midfielder Dre Fortune put a precise strike on target, forcing Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller into a diving save.
A few minutes later, it was Fortune who set up Ewolo, who headed just high. The chances continued to come for NCFC in the game’s final stages. Miller redirected a cross from defender DJ Taylor in the 77th minute, but Charlotte’s Miller tipped the shot over at the last second.
In the end, NCFC’s constant pressure couldn’t lead to a second goal.
Fact To Know
Yamikani Chester’s third-minute score was NCFC’s quickest goal this season, and it marked the third time NCFC scored within the opening six minutes of a match in 2019 (Marios Lomis 5’, vs. Hartford Athletic; Yamikani Chester 6’, vs. Swope Park Rangers).
– NCFC scored first for the 10th time this season and is unbeaten when doing so.
– Yamikani Chester joins Marios Lomis (6), Steven Miller (5) and Dre Fortune (3) on the list of NCFC players with three-plus goals this season.
– NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, who was recently named the USL Championship Fans’ Choice Midseason Goalkeeper of the Year, made two saves against Charlotte.
– NCFC’s youth-to-pro pipeline on full display Thursday, as NCFC Academy products Dre Fortune, DJ Taylor and Caleb Duvernay each were named in the starting lineup. Former NCFC U23 standout Nazmi Albadawi did not feature in Thursday’s match.
– NCFC improved to 4W-0L-4D in home matches in league play.
– Midfielder Austin da Luz and forward Robert Kristo appeared as substitutes.
NCFC hits the road for its first-ever trip to Alabama to take on Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday, July 13, at 8 p.m. ET.
NCFC’s next home match is against new USL Championship side Loudoun United on Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. For tickets and information please visit NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
NCFC (4-2-3-1): Alex Tambakis; Caleb Duvernay, Aaron Guillen, Sam Brotherton, DJ Taylor; Graham Smith, Dre Fortune; Steven Miller, Ben Speas, Yamikani Chester (Austin da Luz, 86’); Donovan Ewolo (Robert Kristo,78’)
Subs not used: Darrin McLeod, Tim Mehl, Victor Igbekoyi, Duval Wapiwo, Austin Panchot
CLT (4-4-2): Brandon Miller; Hugh Roberts, Steven Thicot, Joel Johnson, Abdoulie Mansally (Aaron Maund, 78’) ; Kevan George, Enzo Martinez ©, Alex Martinez, Afrim Taku; Dominic Oduro (Valentin Sabella, 65’), Niki Jackson (Jorge Herrera, 65’)
Subs not used: Curtis Anderson, Hassan Ndam, Clay Domick, Zyen Jones
NCFC: Yamikani Chester (Donovan Ewolo, 3’)
CLT: Niki Jackson (Enzo Martinez, 14’)
NCFC: Steven Miller 75’
CLT: Kevan George 76’