CARY, N.C. (March 17, 2018) – Despite constantly threatening the Tampa Bay goal, North Carolina FC ended up on the wrong side of a 3-1 result to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday in its USL debut match at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Down a goal at halftime after hitting the post three times in the opening 45 minutes, NCFC nearly equalized on numerous occasions in the second half but never could find the back of the net.
The best opportunity came in the 62nd minute, when NCFC defender Steven Miller had a one-on-one with Tampa Bay goalkeeper Cody Mizell after being played in by midfielder Kyle Bekker. However, Miller, who scored NCFC’s first goal of the season in the first half, pushed his shot wide left.
Minutes later, NCFC debutant Daniel Rios and defender D.J. Taylor each had shots saved by Mizell, who was very busy between the pipes for the visitors.
The Rowdies sealed the win with a 90th minute goal by Jack Blake.
Unlucky to be trailing 1-0 after hitting the post twice within the opening 12 minutes, NCFC tied the match in the 38th minute when Miller, the team’s leading returning scorer, found the back of the net with a low-to-the-ground effort from the right side of the box.
The tied score was short-lived, however, with Tampa Bay responding in the 42nd minute on a penalty kick by Georgi Hristov.
Undeterred, NCFC nearly equalized in the 44th minute. Posted out on the left flank, da Luz curled in a cross across the box to Taylor, whose header hit the right post.
Hitting the post was the story of the first half for NCFC. In the fourth minute, a free kick taken by Bekker found da Luz, whose headed effort ricocheted off the lower portion of the left post.
Not long after, Bekker nearly opened up his NCFC scoring account in the 12th minute. On the edge of the box with room to operate, Bekker let loose on a shot that beat Mizell but not the right post.
Eleven minutes later, Tampa Bay, against the run of play, opened the scoring with a left-footed effort from Leo Fernandes.
Moving forward, NCFC hits the road for the next two weeks, playing at Louisville City FC, the defending USL Cup champions, on Saturday, March 24, and at the Richmond Kickers on March 31.
The team returns to Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, April 7, when it hosts Indy Eleven at 7 p.m.
Miller’s breakaway 17 minutes into the second half looked to be NCFC’s best chance to pull even. Bekker, who was the nucleus of NCFC’s offense in the attacking third, delivered a pinpoint through ball to Miller, but the Tampa Bay defense forced his shot just wide with Mizell closing in on him.
Saturday’s match proved how slim the margin between victory and defeat can be. NCFC hit the post three times, any number of which could have changed the course of the game had they gone in.
– Saturday’s match served as the NCFC debut for the following eight players: Alex Tambakis, Peabo Doue, Marios Lomis, Kyle Bekker, Daniel Rios, Graham Smith, Bernhard Luxbacher and Michael Harrington. The match was also Smith’s first ever professional game.
– Steven Miller, North Carolina FC’s leading returning scorer notched the first goal of the season for NCFC. His effort was assisted by Lomis.
– The loss was NCFC’s first against Tampa Bay since October 24, 2015 and the first in a home opener for the club since 2011. Entering Saturday, NCFC had won its two most recent matches against the Rowdies.
NCFC: (4-5-1): Alex Tambakis; Peabo Doue, Michael Harrington (Wuilito Fernandes, 89’), Futty Danso, DJ Taylor; Austin daLuz © (Bernhard Luxbacher, 76’), Dre Fortune, Graham Smith, Kyle Bekker, Steven Miller; Marios Lomis (Daniel Rios, 66’)
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Marcel Kandziora, Cameron Steele, Bernhard Luxbacher, Wuilito Fernandes, Daniel Rios, Aaron Guillen
TBR: (4-3-3): GK Cody Mizell; D David Najem, Hunter Gorskie, Neill Collins, Zac Portillos; M Marcel Schäfer, Jack Blake, Joe Cole (c) (Lance Rozeboom, 75’); F Michael Nanchoff (Sebastian Guenzatti, 73’) , Georgi Hristov, Leo Fernandes (Jochen Graf, 88’)
Subs not used: GK Fitzgerald; D Magalhaães, Lachowecki; M Flemmings; F Guenzatti, Graf
NCFC: Steven Miller (Marios Lomis, 38’);
TBR: Leo Fernandes (unassisted, 23’); Georgi Hristov (penalty, 41’); Jack Blake (Sebastian Guenzatti, 90’)
NCFC: Futty Danso, 17’