ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (August 11, 2018)– North Carolina FC earned a huge three points in the playoff race with a 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
The win moves NCFC up to 10th in the USL Eastern Conference and just two points out of a playoff position. The team is undefeated in its last six matches with three wins in its last four games.
A quiet start to the match saw both teams settle in slowly. Neither side had a clear-cut attacking chance until Alex Tambakis was called into action in the 26th minute. The goalkeeper made an excellent diving save to deny Junior Flemings, whose speed set him up for a solo effort just inside the box.
Flemings, Tampa’s most dangerous attacking option in the first half, had another great look at goal as time winded down in the half. The attacker once again found space and let loose a powerful shot from outside the 18-yard box. Tambakis was up to the task and pushed away the shot.
Following the break, NCFC’s defense worked hard to deny Tampa. The visitors managed to hold off the Rowdies before flipping the momentum and taking over the game.
In the 65th minute, Marcel Kandziora found himself unmarked in the box. The German deftly directed a cross from Steven Miller into the far corner of the net. The goal was the second of the season for Kandziora and the third assist for Miller.
Just 13 minutes later, NCFC assumed full control of the match as Daniel Rios doubled NCFC’s lead off an assist from Kyle Bekker. Two of the USL’s stat leaders in their respective categories, Bekker recorded his 10th assist of the year and Rios tucked home his 12th goal of the season. Bekker found space on the right side and threaded a pass across the face of goal into the path of Rios, who converted the easy finish from about five yards out.
NCFC rode out the final period of the match with ease, clinching its second shutout in a row to solidify its position in the playoff race.
The next step in NCFC’s travels is Indianapolis, where it will take on Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday, August 15 at 7 p.m. ET.; it’s NCFC’s first midweek match since the Fourth of July, at the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Both former members of the NASL, NCFC and Indy have played each other multiple times each season since 2014. NCFC found itself on the wrong end of a 1-0 result at home against Indy in April.
The victory is NCFC’s third road win and fifth shutout of the season.
NCFC now has 30 points and sits in 10th place in the USL Eastern Conference, just two points away from a playoff spot.
Marcel Kandziora recorded his second goal of the season and Steven Miller added his third assist of 2018.
With his 12th goal of the season, Daniel Rios moves into a three-way tie for second in the USL in goals scored.
Bekker added his 10th assist of the season to tie the franchise record for most assists in a single season, previously set by Nazmi Albadawi in 2016. His 10 assists currently rank tied for first in the USL.
NCFC (4-5-1): Alex Tambakis; Aaron Guillen, Michael Harrington, Connor Tobin, D.J. Taylor; Marcel Kandziora (Wuilito Fernandes, 77’), Austin da Luz, Graham Smith (Peabo Doue, 56’), Kyle Bekker, Steven Miller; Daniel Rios(Donovan Ewolo, 86’)
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Tiyi Shipalane, Dre Fortune, Marios Lomis
TB (4-3-3): Cody Mizell; Zachary Portillos © (Max Lachowecki, 65’), Tarek Morad, Abdoulaye Diakite, Hunter Gorskie; Martin Vingaard, Dominic Oduro, Kwadwo Poku (Michael Nanchoff, 55’); Junior Flemmings, Leon Taylor (Stefano Bonomo, 70’), Afrim Taku
Subs not used: Akira Fitzgerald, Tamika Mkandawire, Alex Morrell, Georgi Hristov
NCFC: Marcel Kandziora (Steven Miller, 65’), Daniel Rios (Kyle Bekker, 78’)
NCFC: Connor Tobin 6’, Austin da Luz 51’
TB: Abdoulaye Diakite 13’