CARY, N.C. (August 25, 2018) – Zach Steinberger could do no wrong on his club debut, and North Carolina FC continued its dominance over its biggest rival in a 6-2 Southern Derby rivalry victory over the Charlotte Independence Saturday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Less than 48 hours after arriving on a season-long loan from Indy Eleven, Steinberger stole the show, scoring a pair of goals and assisting on another.
With the result, NCFC (9W-9L-7D, 34 points) picked up three critical points in the USL Eastern Conference playoff race, and improved to 2W-0L-0D against Charlotte in 2018. Dating back to June 13, NCFC is unbeaten in its seven latest home matches (4W-0L-3D).
“Great response. We came in at halftime and we just talked about doing things simply and moving the ball quickly and as efficient as possible,” NCFC coach Colin Clarke said. “And we knew we would create chances, and we created plenty. So full credit to the boys.”
In addition to Steinberger, forward Daniel Rios (two goals) and midfielder Steven Miller (one goal, two assists) also starred for NCFC, as the club moved into first place in the Southern Derby standings.
In the ninth minute, the visitors nearly took an early lead as Charlotte forward Caleb Calvert’s effort hit the left post, and forward Yann Ekra’s follow-up was cleared off the line by NCFC left back Aaron Guillen.
Fifteen minutes later, the Independence opened the scoring with a header off a corner kick by midfielder Kevan George.
But NCFC was quick to respond, as Steinberger endeared himself to the home fans and marked his debut with an incredible first goal for the club in the 26th minute.
After his header was denied from point-blank range by Charlotte goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, Steinberger reacted immediately and scissored his second chance into the back of the net to equalize.
After Steinberger’s wonder-goal, NCFC earned the better of chances for the rest of the first half, and Steinberger threatened once again with a header in the 43rd minute that traveled wide left.
Out of the halftime break, NCFC quickly grabbed hold of the lead, and Steinberger was again involved in the action. This time, the NCFC new boy received a pass from center back Wuilito Fernandes on the right side of the box, and he quickly crossed to Miller, who finished with ease from a few yards out.
Steinberger’s incredible night didn’t end at that point, however. Two minutes after Miller was set up by Steinberger, the reverse occurred, as Miller played in a service from the left flank to a leaping Steinberger, whose header zoomed past Charlotte’s Dykstra.
In the 69th minute, midfielder Austin da Luz got in on the action by scoring his fourth goal of the season. With no Charlotte defenders in sight, da Luz stepped into a powerful shot from just beyond the 18-yard box, and his effort flew into the right corner of the net.
Rios, one of the most prolific scorers in the USL, notched his first goal of the night via a precise free kick in the 72nd minute. Six minutes later, a cross from Miller reached Rios’ feet, and he converted from close range to record a brace.
In the 85th minute, Charlotte’s Jake Areman earned a late consolation for the visitors.
NCFC continues a three-game homestand at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET. The last time the two teams met, on Aug. 11, second-half goals from midfielder Marcel Kandziora and Rios powered NCFC to a 2-0 win.
Steinberger’s second goal of the night put NCFC ahead 3-1 in the 51st minute and opened up the floodgates for the home team.
Fact to know:
NCFC’s six goals were the most the club has scored in a league match since the then-RailHawks recorded nine goals against Miami F.C. on Aug. 26, 2009.
They Said It:
“We played really well, and then we just kept the momentum going from there. To be in a game where we score six goals on my first game playing for the club, you know, it’s a dream start, and hopefully we can use this as a catalyst to carry that momentum and push right into the playoffs” – Zach Steinberger..
– With the win, NCFC improved to 4W-1L-0D in competitive matches against the Charlotte Independence.
– NCFC is now 6W-4L-3D in home matches for the season.
– NCFC (four points) now sits atop the Southern Derby standings, a regional competition with Charlotte and the Charleston Battery.
– After recording a brace Saturday, NCFC’s Daniel Rios has 15 goals in 2018, the most on the team and the second most in the USL.
– Steven Miller ranks second on NCFC in assists with five after recording a pair against Charlotte.
– Wuilito Fernandes started in USL play for the first time this season.
– Dre Fortune, Marcel Kandziora and Peabo Doue appeared as second-half substitutes.
NCFC (4-5-1): Alex Tambakis; Aaron Guillen, Wuilito Fernandes, Connor Tobin ©, DJ Taylor; Tiyi Shipalane (Marcel Kandziora, 73’), Austin da Luz (Peabo Doue, 77’), Zach Steinberger (Dre Fortune, 81’), Graham Smith, Steven Miller; Daniel Rios
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Michael Harrington, Marios Lomis, Donovan Ewolo
CLT (4-5-1): Andrew Dykstra; Bilal Duckett ©, Bertrand Owundi, Joel Johnson, Sam Vines (Jake Areman, 70’); Greg Jordan (Mutuya Mwape, 70’), Yann Ekra, Kevan George, Alex Martinez, Je-Vaughan Watson; Caleb Calvert (Ricardo Perez, 83’)
Subs not used: Brandon Miller, Calvin Doum, Henry Kalungi
NCFC: Zach Steinberger (Unassisted, 26’), Steven Miller (Zach Steinberger, 49’), Zach Steinberger (Steven Miller, 51’), Austin da Luz (Tiyi Shipalane, 69’), Daniel Rios (Unassisted, 81’), Daniel Rios (Steven Miller, 78’)
CLT: Kevan George (Sam Vines, 24’), Jake Areman (Mutaya Mwape, 85’)
NCFC: Wuilito Fernandes 36’, Steven Miller 38’, Zach Steinberger 51’
CLT: Kevan George 32’, Bertrand Owundi 71’