BETHLEHEM, Pa. (July 14, 2018 ) – North Carolina FC battled Bethlehem Steel FC to a 1-1 draw on a warm Saturday evening at Goodman Stadium and earned another point in the race to qualify for the USL playoffs.
NCFC has now secured points from four of its last five matches and is building momentum during the final half of the season.
After an early period of trading chances and possession, it was NCFC who capitalized on its opportunity and took a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute. Marcel Kandziora found the target with pinpoint accuracy, netting a long-range goal after a give-and-go with Daniel Rios.
However, the lead wouldn’t hold and Bethlehem equalized in the 56th minute. After a turnover in the NCFC half, Steel FC’s Adam Najem controlled the ball at the top of the box, and placed his shot into the far corner of the net to pull his side level.
The second half played out at a frantic pace over the final 30 minutes. NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis was excellent when tested and finished the match with four saves.
On the attacking end, NCFC searched for the go-ahead goal. Donovan Ewolo was dangerous in the middle and had a good chance in the 66th minute. A short corner and quick cross sent a ball into the box towards an onrushing Ewolo. The forward nearly got his head on the ball right in front of goal, however, Ewolo was just off the mark and the ball skipped away from danger.
As both teams searched for a winning goal, the end-to-end play led to two exhausted sides near the conclusion of the match. In the 96th minute, Bethlehem’s James Chambers put a shot on goal, but a heads up play from Graham Smith saved the draw for NCFC. The rookie dived in front of the shot and redirected the ball away from goal, ending the game level at 1-1.
NCFC returns to Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, July 21 at 7 p.m. to face Toronto FC II. Tickets are available online, over the phone at 919-459-8144 or in person at the Coastal Credit Union Box Office.
NCFC Youth Academy products Dre Fortune and DJ Taylor both made the starting lineup.
NCFC’s Steven Miller and Graham Smith returned to the Lehigh Valley to play at a stadium about an hour from each of their hometowns.
Marcel Kandziora scored his first goal of the year off an assist from Daniel Rios.
BST (4-2-3-1): Jake McGuire; Prosper Chiluya, Brandon Aubrey, Benjamin Ofeimu, Matthew Mahoney; James Chambers ©, Drew Skundrich; Santi Moar, Adam Najem (Brenden Aaronson, 86’), Christopher Nanco (Omar Holness, 69’); Tonny Temple (Aidan Apodaca, 46’)
Subs not used: Tomas Romero, AJ Paterson, Michael Pellegrino
NCFC (4-4-2): Alex Tambakis; DJ Taylor (Aaron Guillen, 81’), Michael Harrington, Connor Tobin ©, Steven Miller; Marcel Kandziora, Kyle Bekker, Graham Smith, Dre Fortune; Daniel Rios (Tiyi Shipalane, 60’), Donovan Ewolo
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Wuilito Fernandes, Nelson Blanco, Cameron Steele, Mario Lomis
BST: Adam Najem (Drew Skundrich, 56’)
NCFC: Marcel Kandziora (Daniel Rios, 23’)
BST: Prosper Chiluya 65’, Omar Holness 83’, Brandon Aubrey 90’+5
NCFC: Graham Smith 41’, Dre Fortune 70’, Marcel Kandziora 90’+4