NCFC Earns Biggest Win of Season with 5-0 Victory over Pittsburgh
CARY, N.C. - North Carolina FC began a three-match week in grand fashion Saturday night, winning 5-0 against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Midfielder Dre Fortune and forward Donovan Ewolo each recorded braces in the victory and second-half substitute Robbie Kristo also found the back of the net as NCFC won by five goals for the first time since September 2018.
With the victory, NCFC (12W-5L-7D, 43 points) moved up to fourth place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference standings, setting up an important showdown at home with the second-place Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday.
"I think our guys had a very professional performance tonight," NCFC head coach Dave Sarachan said. "Even getting a second and a third; they just didn't let their foot off the gas. Obviously it's a tough night for Pittsburgh coming off a midweek game, but kudos to our guys for being pretty professional tonight."
Despite creating a number of good scoring chances throughout the first half, it looked as if both teams would enter the halftime break with no goals to show for it. That changed in the 45th minute, however, when Fortune was brought down in the 18-yard-box by Pittsburgh's Thomas Vancaeyezeele, resulting in a red card for the Pittsburgh defender and a penalty kick to NCFC.
A minute later, Fortune calmly converted from the spot, going to the right of Pittsburgh goalkeeper Kyle Morton to give NCFC a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
Up a man and uncontent with their one-goal advantage, Sarachan's players continued to dominate offensively during the second half.
In the 50th minute, Fortune transitioned from goalscorer to goal-creator, as he sent in a curling ball to the back post, which Ewolo skied high for and headed home, doubling NCFC's advantage and starting a nine-minute stretch in which NCFC scored three goals.
After Pittsburgh's Kenardo Forbes handled the ball in the box, NCFC was awarded another penalty kick, and although Ewolo's initial effort was denied, he collected the rebound and slotted it home in the 57th minute, securing his second brace of the season.
But Ewolo wouldn't be the only NCFC player to score twice on Saturday. After receiving a cross from midfielder Steven Miller, Fortune slotted his shot home, beating Pittsburgh's Morton at his near post.
To cap off NCFC's most impressive offensive showing of the season, Kristo scored his fourth goal of the year, a well-struck, right-footed shot in the 74th minute assisted by midfielder Nazmi Albadawi.
Defensively, NCFC did well to keep Pittsburgh in check from start to finish, as the visitors failed to record a shot on target.
Fact to Know
With his two goals on Saturday, Donovan Ewolo now has seven goals in 2019, moving him into a tie for the team-lead with Steven Miller and matching his 2018 goal total.
- NCFC (12W-5L-7D, 43 points) moved into fourth place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference.
- NCFC is now 7W-1L-4D at home in league play this season.
- Dre Fortune and Donovan Ewolo each recorded braces for the second time this season. Fortune scored twice in a 3-1 win at Tampa Bay on June 8, and Ewolo scored twice in a 4-2 win on July 27 against Atlanta United 2.
- Forward Justin Rennicks, who joined NCFC on loan from the New England Revolution on Aug. 1, made his first start, playing 69 minutes.
- NCFC's five goals were its most in a home match since scoring six times in a win against the Charlotte Independence on Aug. 25, 2018.
- NCFC's youth-to-pro pipeline was clearly illustrated Saturday as NCFC Academy products DJ Taylor and Dre Fortune were named in the starting lineup, as were former NCFC U23 standouts Nazmi Albadawi and Alex Comsia. Manny Perez, an Academy product, came off the bench, while Caleb Duvernay, who played for both the Academy and NCFC U23, was included in the 18-player squad.
- Goalkeeper Alex Tambakis earned his sixth shutout of the season.
- Midfielder Steven Miller has a team-leading six assists in 2019.
- Midfielder Austin da Luz, forward Robbie Kristo and midfielder Manny Perez appeared as second-half substitutes.
It's a quick turnaround for NCFC, as the team hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 7:00 p.m. In the first matchup between the two teams, NCFC won 3-1 at Tampa on June 8, becoming the first team to beat the then league-leading Rowdies. For tickets and information please visit NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
NCFC (4-2-3-1): Alex Tambakis; Aaron Guillen, Sam Brotherton, Alex Comsia, DJ Taylor; Nazmi Albadawi, Graham Smith (Austin da Luz, 63'); Steven Miller © (Manny Perez, 64'), Dre Fortune, Justin Rennicks (Robert Kristo, 69')
Subs: Darrin MacLeod, Caleb Duvernay, Colton Storm, Duval Wapiwo
PIT (5-3-2): Kyle Morton; Ryan James (Uche Uzo, 75'), Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Joe Greenspan, Noah Franke (Sammy Kahsai, 83'); Mo Dabo, Kenardo Forbes © (Robbie Mertz, 63'), Anthony Velarde; Steevan Dos Santos, Christian Volesky
Subs not used: Austin Pack, Jordan Dover, Kevin Kerr, Neco Brett
NCFC: Dre Fortune (Penalty, 45+1', Steven Miller, 59'), Donovan Ewolo (Dre Fortune, 50', unassisted, 57'), Robert Kristo (Nazmi Albadawi, 75')
NCFC: Alex Comsia 26', Graham Smith 53'
PIT: Kenardo Forbes 56', Ryan James 69'
PIT: Thomas Vancaeyezeele 44'
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