Cary, N.C. (September 8, 2018)- A strong offensive performance helped North Carolina FC earn a 3-3 draw against Nashville SC in the first game of Saturday’s historic doubleheader at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Midfielders Tiyi Shipalane and Zach Steinberger and forward Daniel Rios each scored in the draw, as NCFC (9W-10L-8D, 35 points) kept itself in the playoff race with the result.
“Overall a disappointing result, but a great performance, and a great reaction from where we were last week,” NCFC head coach Colin Clarke said. “We’re still in there fighting with a lot of other teams for the last few playoff [spots]. A lot of positives.”
After both teams exchanged chances in the early phase of the game, a moment of brilliance from Shipalane put NCFC on the board in the 18th minute. After a Nashville giveaway, Shipalane made a run toward goal from midfield, and let loose on a shot from beyond the 18-yard box that took a deflection and flew past opposing goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
For Shipalane, a longtime fan favorite, the goal was his first of the season and the 34th in his NCFC career, one behind Brian Shriver’s club-leading 35 tallies.
Following Shipalane’s goal, Nashville turned its attention to finding an equalizer, and found itself in the NCFC final third on multiple occasions but couldn’t manufacture much.
With NCFC’s backline of D.J. Taylor, Aaron Guillen, Connor Tobin and Steven Miller playing well as a unit, Nashville didn’t give Alex Tambakis much to worry about in the first half apart from a 37th-minute header from Ropapa Mensah that was handled by the NCFC goalkeeper.
Shortly after, NCFC doubled its advantage thanks to a strong run from midfielder Graham Smith and a subsequently well-executed set piece from Rios.
Unmarked, Smith ventured toward the edge of the box before winning a foul, which gave the always-lethal Rios a chance from just beyond the area. Positioned on the left edge of the box, Rios slotted his right-footed shot right through a Shipalane-created hole in the Nashville wall and into the bottom right corner of the net.
After NCFC took a two-goal advantage into the halftime break, Nashville made it a 2-1 game with a penalty kick from Brandon Allen in the 51st minute.
NCFC kept its composure after the visitors’ breakthrough and restored its lead to two goals in the 63rd minute thanks to Steinberger. After a partial clearance by Nashville, Steinberger one-timed a shot to the left of Pickens and into the back of the net.
Nashville pulled within one goal with another penalty kick from Allen, this time in the 80th minute. Two minutes later, Lebo Moloto provided the equalizing goal for the visitors.
From that point on, neither side could score a decisive goal, and they instead split the points.
NCFC begins a crucial three-game road swing against Penn FC on Sunday, September 16 at 5 p.m. ET. In April, NCFC defeated Penn FC 3-0 behind a one-goal, two-assist performance by Bekker.
Following that contest, NCFC has road matches against Atlanta United 2 (Sept. 21) and the Charleston Battery (Sept. 26).
Fact to know:
Steinberger, who arrived on loan from Indy Eleven in August, has scored three goals in his first three matches with the club.
They Said It:
“I was just in a good spot just in case they made a turnover, and I was just there in the middle of park and the pass was not accurate. Took a first touch in front of their player. I just drove … I saw the two defenders separate. There was a lot of space in the gap. I tried to place it back post with the finesse, and then it took a nice deflection.” – Tiyi Shipalane on his first goal since June 24, 2017.
– Former NCFC midfielder Boluwatife Akinyode started for Nashville SC.
– NCFC forward Daniel Rios scored his 16th goal of the season, which is tied for the second most in the USL with Thomas Enevoldsen of Orange County SC.
– NCFC midfielder Tiyi Shipalane made his fourth start of the season and scored his first goal since June 24, 2017.
– With 35 points, NCFC is four points back of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
– Wuilito Fernandes, Peabo Doue and Donovan Ewolo appeared as second-half substitutes.
NCFC (4-5-1):Alex Tambakis; DJ Taylor (Peabo Doue, 64’), Aaron Guillen, Connor Tobin ©, Steven Miller; Kyle Bekker (Wuilito Fernandes, 71’), Austin da Luz, Zach Steinberger, Graham Smith, Tiyi Shipalane (Donovan Ewolo, 90’); Daniel Rios
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Victor Igbekoyi, Dre Fortune, Marios Lomis
NSH (4-4-2): Matt Pickens; Kosuke Kimura, Brad Bourgeois, Liam Doyle, Justin Davis (Tucker Hume, 68’); Taylor Washington, Matt Lagrassa, Michael Reed ©, Bolu Akinyode (Brandon Allen, 46’); Lebo Moloto, Ropapa Mensah (Alan Winn, 46’)
Subs not used: CJ Cochran, London Woodberry, Ish Jome, Ryan James
NCFC: Tiyi Shipalane (Unassisted, 18’), Daniel Rios (Unassisted, 39’), Zach Steinberger (Unassisted, 63’)
NSH: Brandon Allen (PK, 51’), Brandon Allen (PK, 80’), Lebo Moloto (Unassisted, 82’)
NSH: Kosuke Kimura 67’