Goals from Perez and Fortune Lead NCFC to Victory
Birmingham, AL - North Carolina FC earned a valuable win over Birmingham Legion FC at BBVA Field on Saturday night behind two first-half goals from Manny Perez and Dre Fortune. Perez's goal was his first of the 2020 season and the earliest goal scored by an NCFC player this season.
North Carolina FC started their attack early, eager to gain an advantage over the Legion in the opening minutes of the match. With a Birmingham defender gaining on him from behind, Marios Lomis dropped a pass to Ben Speas just outside the eighteen. Cutting the ball towards his right foot, Speas lofted a cross into the box, meeting the foot of Manny Perez. On his first touch, Perez redirected the cross, volleying the ball past Birmingham goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel and into the lower ninety, notching a goal to give NCFC a 1-0 lead. Perez was named the Coastal Credit Union Man of the Match for the second consecutive week.
Later, Pecka was fouled by Birmingham defender Alex Crognale in the box. As a result of the call, North Carolina FC earned a penalty kick and a chance to extend their lead. Dre Fortune took the kick, burying a shot into the right corner of the net and past Van Oekel, who dove left in an attempt to make the save. The goal was Fortune's fifth of the season, bringing NCFC's lead to 2-0 after only 26 minutes of play.
In the 67th minute, Birmingham was awarded a corner kick that was taken by Bruno Lapa. During a scramble in front of the NCFC net, Birmingham forward JJ Williams dropped the ball back to Lapa, who drove another cross into the box. The cross found midfielder Jaden Servania, who scored to cut NCFC's lead in half.
Paulo Pita recorded his first professional start in tonight's contest, logging two key saves in the final minutes of the match to maintain NCFC's lead. Pita's effort in goal robbed the Legion of two scoring opportunities when Van Oekel abandoned the net to give Birmingham an extra man in the box. Despite the Legion's desperate attempts to earn an equalizer, NCFC held onto the lead to secure the victory. With the win, NCFC keeps their playoff hopes alive.
Looking Ahead: North Carolina FC will return home to face off against the Charlotte Independence at WakeMed Soccer Park next Wednesday, September 30 at 7 p.m. ET.
Paulo Pita earned his first professional start and his first start in goal for NCFC.
Manny Perez scored his first goal of the 2020 season during the match and the earliest goal scored by NCFC this season (7').
Ben Speas captained NCFC in the match.
NCFC Youth Academy products Alex Comsia, Conor Donovan, Dre Fortune, Manny Perez, and DJ Taylor started the match for NCFC.
BHM (4-5-1): Matt Van Oekel ©; Alex Crognale, Mikey Lopez, Razak Cromwell (Anderson Asiedu, 37'), Boluwatife Akinyode (Brian Wright, 88); Jonathan Dean, Bruno Lapa, Eli Crognale (Jaden Servania, 63'), Prosper Kasim, JJ Williams; Neco Brett
Subs Not Used: Jacob Rufe, Trevor Spangenberg, Daigo Kobayashi, Josh Bauer
NC: (4-5-1): Paulo Pita; DJ Taylor, Alex Comsia, Conor Donovan, Akeem Ward; Graham Smith, Pecka, Manny Perez (Daniele Proch, 83'), Dre Fortune (Sam Brotherton, 83'), Ben Speas © (Hadji Barry, 64'); Marios Lomis (Robert Kristo, 72')
Subs Not Used: Shane De Leon, Malick Mbaye, Alex Tambakis
BHM: Jaden Servania (Bruno Lapa, 67')
NC: Manny Perez (Ben Speas, 7'), Dre Fortune (penalty, 26')
BHM: Razak Cromwell (23'), JJ Williams (87')
NC: Manny Perez (37'), Robert Kristo (90')
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