CARY, N.C. (June 23, 2018) – An impressive performance bookended by goals from in-form striker Daniel Rios against the Eastern Conference’s second-place team earned North Carolina FC a 2-2 draw Saturday night against Louisville City at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
With his team trailing as the end of the match approached, Rios poked home his eighth goal of the season in the 87th minute after an impressive run and pass from fan-favorite Tiyi Shipalane, as NCFC (4W-7L-3D) earned an important point in the standings.
“I thought we responded magnificently (to a second-half deficit),” NCFC head coach Colin Clarke said. “It was probably the first time this year where it’s gone our way in the last few minutes of a game, and what looked like a defeat at one point...we got a point. I thought we thoroughly deserved it.”
Going up against the defending USL Cup Champions, NCFC knew the importance of getting off to a good start. It did just that in the 11th minute when Rios headed home midfielder Kyle Bekker’s cross from the left. Eyeing Bekker’s crisp delivery as soon as it came off the Canadian’s foot, Rios leapt over Louisville City defender Paco Craig and his header zoomed by Louisville City goalkeeper Gregory Ranjitsingh.
In the 39th minute, the visitors pulled even, as Louisville City’s Craig found the back of the net with a header off a corner kick from Oscar Jimenez.
From there, the two teams went into the halftime break with nothing separating them. As the second half began, chances were initially few and far apart for both sides, with much of the action taking place between the two 18-yard boxes.
However, NCFC came inches away from regaining the lead in the 57th minute, as Rios once again threatened with his head. Chasing down a cross from midfielder Austin da Luz, the Chivas Guadalajara loanee saw his header glance off the outside of the left post.
Two minutes later, in the 59th-minute, the visitors took their first lead of the night through Ilija Ilic, who maneuvered around the box before slotting his effort home from just a few yards out on the right.
Showing a great amount of resolve, NCFC continued to fight back and didn’t allow Louisville City to strike again while putting together good stretches of play in dangerous positions at the other end of the field. That determination eventually paid off when Shipalane, who came on as a substitute in the 74th minute, set up Rios for the game-tying goal.
NCFC resumes its regional rivalry with the Richmond Kickers on the road at City Stadium on Saturday, June 30, at 7 p.m. ET. The match is the second of three games between the two teams this season.
There is no answer other than the connection between Shipalane and Rios. With NCFC desperately searching for a way to earn a point, Shipalane furiously dribbled past multiple Louisville City defenders before playing in a low ball that maneuvered past several sets of legs before reaching Rios, who wisely positioned himself at the back post and finished when the pass arrived.
With his brace, Rios is now tied for the most goals in the Eastern Conference with eight.
They Said It:
“It’s a difficult result. It’s good because we were losing – it’s not too bad for us. It’s at home, so we expect to win. But it’s not a bad result (considering the second-half deficit).” – Daniel Rios.
– NCFC’s most prolific creator of scoring chances, midfielder Kyle Bekker, recorded his sixth assist of the season, the second most in the Eastern Conference.
– NCFC head coach Colin Clarke made just one change to NCFC’s starting lineup from last week’s game against Nashville SC, replacing Marcel Kandziora with Kyle Bekker.
– NCFC scored first for the eighth time this season, improving to 4W-2L-2D when doing so.
– Tiyi Shipalane recorded his first assist of the season.
NCFC (4-5-1): Alex Tambakis; Aaron Guillen, Michael Harrington, Connor Tobin ©, DJ Taylor (Marcel Kandziora, 89’); Austin da Luz, Daniel Rios, Graham Smith (Tiyi Shipalane, 74’), Kyle Bekker, Steven Miller; Marios Lomis (Donovan Ewolo, 70’)
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Cameron Steele, Nelson Blanco, Dre Fortune
LOU (4-1-4-1): Greg Ranjitsingh; Kyle Smith, Sean Totsch (Pat McMahon, 83’), Paco Craig, Alexis Souahy; Paolo DelPiccolo ©; Oscar Jimenez, Devon Williams, Niall McCabe, Brian Ownby (Shaun Francis, 57’); Ilija Ilic (Cameron Lancaster, 71’)
Subs not used: Tim Dobrowolski, Chris Hubbard, George Davis IV, Magnus Rasmussen
NCFC: Daniel Rios (Kyle Bekker, 11’), Daniel Rios (Tiyi Shipalane, 87’)
LOU: Paco Craig (Oscar Jimenez, 39’), Illja Ilic (Unassisted, 59’)
NCFC: Daniel Rios 47’, Marcel Kandziora 90’+1
LOU: Niall McCabe 72’