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 North Carolina FC

NCFC Hosts Undefeated Hartford Athletic Friday

March 28, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
North Carolina FC News Release

CARY, N.C. - North Carolina FC hosts undefeated Hartford Athletic on Friday, March 29, at 7:00 p.m. ET at WakeMed Soccer Park in Week 4 of the 2024 USL Championship Season.

The match will be a Throwback Night and honor the Triangle's soccer history with Carolina RailHawks merchandise, alumni appearances, and homages to the team's RailHawks and early NCFC years throughout the night, highlighted by a co-branded soccer keychain. Purchase tickets here.

Rafa Mentzingen rescued a point for North Carolina in last week's match as the 2023 USL League One All-League First Team honoree notched his first goal of 2024 for a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

NCFC statistically dominated their renewed rival throughout, outshooting Tampa Bay 15-3 and the Rowdies' lone goal on the night coming via an own goal.

Defender Justin Malou impressed during his team debut against Tampa, leading all NCFC defenders in passing accuracy, while winning nine of 11 attempted duels and three of three attempted tackles. Both stats were match highs.

Collin Martin continued his impressive start as the engine of NCFC's midfield with three chances created, 88.9% passing accuracy, seven duels won, two tackles won and winning possession eight times.

Louis Perez led all players with five chances created, including a brilliant cross for the assist on Rafa's equalizer.

North Carolina and Hartford faced off twice during Hartford's inaugural season in 2019, with NCFC earning a 4-1 win and playing to a 1-1 draw. Now-NCFC midfielder Collin Martin started for Hartford in both of those games, playing a combined 163 minutes, while on loan from the MLS's Minnesota United.

Scouting Hartford

Hartford currently sits third in the USL Championship Eastern Conference as one of three undefeated, two-win teams. Both of the Connecticut-based club's wins have come via 1-0 results; away against El Paso Locomotive FC and over Birmingham Legion FC at home.

Both of Hartford's goals this season have come in the first half hour of the match, with 2024 team newcomers Romario Williams and Michee Ngalina -- who reunites with new Head Coach Brendan Burke -- providing the scoring touch.

Ngalina was the 2022 USL Championship Young Player of the Year and excelled under Burke, scoring 20 goals with 16 assists in two seasons in Colorado Springs.

Williams is fresh off a career year with the Switchbacks, with the veteran striker's 15 goals and three assists to match his best season in the USL Championship. The Jamaican international has 57 goals and 10 assists to his name across just under 8,000 minutes of USL Championship experience.

With Williams on international duty with Jamaica during Week 3, Hartford turned to 19-year-old Senegalese striker Mamadou Dieng to lead the line against Birmingham. While a small sample size, Dieng had three shots and five touches in the Legion box and could be a late-game spark off the bench in a tightly contested game.

Ngalina and Deshane Beckford give Hartford a strong one-two punch on the wings that will put the wide players in North Carolina's three-back system to the test; but if the wing backs can avoid getting pinned back, the team's counter press will continue to put opposing defenses in tough spots.

Next Up

North Carolina FC will head away from the East Coast for the first time this season, traveling up to the Great Lakes State to take on Detroit City FC at Keyworth Stadium on Saturday, April 6, at 2 p.m. ET. The match will stream live on ESPN+.

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