CARY, N.C. (September 29, 2018) – Kyle Bekker involved himself in every goal and North Carolina FC overcame a halftime deficit to pick up three important points in the USL playoff race with a 3-2 win over the Richmond Kickers Saturday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
With the victory, the team’s third in its past four matches, NCFC (12W-11L-8D) moved into a tie with Ottawa Fury FC for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
In one of his best games of the season, Bekker scored NCFC’s opening goal, provided the assist on the second and then notched the game-winner.
“We made it difficult for ourselves, but the response second half was superb,” NCFC head coach Colin Clarke said. “Down 2-1, and you’re sitting there, as we talked in the locker room, the season’s on the line right here. And I thought the response was superb.”
After a promising start by NCFC, the visitors struck first, as Prince Agyemang gave Richmond a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute.
Five minutes later, Bekker nearly offered a quick reply, but his shot from outside of the box sailed just right of the post.
Eventually, Bekker’s persistence would pay off. Positioned near the back post, the Canadian midfielder saw a deflected cross from Zach Steinberger fall to his feet after it was parried by Richmond’s Spangenberg.
From just a few yards out on the left, Bekker quickly fired on target to put NCFC on the board.
Right before the halftime break, the Kickers regained the advantage courtesy of Heviel Cordoves, who found the back of the net in the 44th minute.
Two minutes into first-half stoppage time, NCFC forward Donovan Ewolo headed to center back Wuilito Fernandes, who had a good look at goal from close range but fired high.
Out of the halftime break, NCFC earned the bulk of the scoring chances.
In the 54th minute, Aaron Guillen nearly notched his first goal of the season, but saw his pace-filled shot partially blocked by Spangenberg as the ball rolled to the right of the goal.
Midfielder Austin da Luz, who scored in NCFC’s previous game against Richmond in June, leveled the match with a header on a corner kick from Bekker in the 61st minute.
The man of the night, Bekker stayed active in the NCFC attack and gave his team the lead in the 73rd minute with an eye-catching strike from well beyond the 18-yard box.
Having received a crossfield pass from Tiyi Shipalane, Bekker cut inside from the left flank and released a bending shot that evaded Spangenberg and rolled into the right side of the net.
In possession of the lead, NCFC was able to see the result out, thanks in large part to the work of goalkeeper Alex Tambakis.
In the 80th minute, Richmond substitute Yudai Imura found himself in on goal, but his shot was turned away by Tambakis, who made a terrific foot save.
From that point on, NCFC safely protected its lead as it earned three vital points.
NCFC will conclude its home slate against New York Red Bulls II on Saturday, October 6, at 7 p.m. ET at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
In August, Ewolo’s 90th-minute strike earned NCFC a 2-2 draw against the Red Bulls in Montclair, N.J.
Fact to Know:
Saturday’s win marked the fourth time NCFC won when conceding first.
They Said It:
“We knew what we had to do… our season was on the line. Every game now for the rest of the year… until we get into the playoffs, every game is a final” – Kyle Bekker.
– Saturday’s match was a homecoming for Richmond’s Brian Shriver, who played for the then-RailHawks from 2012-13 and rejoined the team for another stint in 2016. In 2013, Shriver, who played collegiately at the University of North Carolina, won the NASL Golden Boot with 15 goals; his 35 goals between league and Open Cup play are the most in club history.
– Kyle Bekker now ranks second in the Eastern Conference with 12 assists.
– Austin da Luz scored his sixth goal of the season Saturday night; NCFC is unbeaten in 2018 when da Luz finds the back of the net.
– NCFC won the three-game regular-season series with Richmond 2W-1L-0D.
– NCFC improved to 4W-0L-1D when scoring three-plus goals.
– Midfielders Viktor Igbekoyi and Steven Miller and forward Daniel Rios appeared as second-half substitutes for NCFC.
– NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis made two saves.
NCFC (4-5-1):Alex Tambakis; Aaron Guillen, Connor Tobin ©, Wuilito Fernandes, DJ Taylor; Kyle Bekker, Austin da Luz, Zach Steinberger (Victor Igbekoyi, 84’), Graham Smith, Tiyi Shipalane (Steven Miller, 88’); Donovan Ewolo (Daniel Rios, 66’)
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Dre Fortune, Marios Lomis, Michael Harrington
RIC (4-4-2): Trevor Spangenberg; Brandon Eaton, Austin Yearwood (Yudai Imura, 77’), Mallan Roberts, Mekeil Williams; Oscar Umar, Greg Boehme (Raul Gonzalez, 64’), Prince Agyemang, Luiz Fernando; Brian Shriver ©, Heviel Cordoves
Subs not used: Brandon Barnes, Conor Shanosky, Neil Hlavaty, Koby Osei-Wusu, Giuseppe Gentile
NCFC: Kyle Bekker (Unassisted, 39’), Austin da Luz (Kyle Bekker, 61’), Kyle Bekker (Tiyi Shipalane, 73’)
RIC: Prince Agyemang (Unassisted, 30’), Heviel Cordoves (Brian Shriver, 44’)
NCFC: Daniel Rios 90+’
RIC: Heviel Cordoves 12’, 79’, Greg Boehme 45+’, Brandon Eaton 50’, Raul Gonzalez 89’
RIC: Heviel Cordoves (two cautions, 79’)