North Carolina FC Aiming to Continue Stellar Home Form against New York Red Bulls II on Saturday
CARY, N.C. - Fresh off clinching a spot in the USL Championship Playoffs, North Carolina FC is back at home for its match against New York Red Bulls II, presented by Aetna, on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. At halftime, NCFC will honor club legends Kupono Low and Tiyi Shipalane, both of whom hold numerous NCFC all-time records from their playing days.
NCFC (14W-9L-8D, 50 points) holds seventh place in the Eastern Conference and most recently defeated Ottawa Fury FC 3-1 last weekend. Head coach Dave Sarachan's team saw its place in the postseason confirmed when Swope Park Rangers defeated Birmingham Legion FC Monday evening, guaranteeing NCFC a top-10 finish.
But with three regular-season matches remaining, NCFC has its sights set on as high of a postseason seed as possible, with sixth-place Louisville City FC just one point ahead and fifth-place Indy Eleven six points ahead.
A tough test awaits NCFC this weekend, however, with NYRB II (17W-8L-6D, 57 points) in town. Saturday's visitors are currently in third place, but have spent most of the season either in the first or second spots. NCFC earned a 2-1 win in the first meeting between the two teams on May 24, powered by goals from center back Sam Brotherton and midfielder Steven Miller.
Last time out, NYRB II was just seconds away from securing a home win against the Charleston Battery, but conceded a 96th-minute equalizer and settled for a 1-1 draw. Coached by John Wolyniec, NYRB II boasts a plethora of young talent, including leading scorer Jared Stroud. The 22-year-old midfielder has scored 14 goals to help pace the Eastern Conference's most prolific offense (70 goals).
Not far behind in terms of offensive production is NCFC, which ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference with 54 goals. Once again playing at home, NCFC will attempt to hand NYRB II a third consecutive road defeat. On the season, NCFC is an impressive 9W-1L-5D at WakeMed Soccer Park, has the second-highest home goal differential in the Eastern Conference and has scored three-plus goals in each of its last four home games.
Perhaps the most well-balanced side in the USL Championship, NCFC features five players with six-plus goals. Midfielder Steven Miller, in the midst of a career season, leads the team in both goals (nine) and assists (six). But there's a logjam of capable scorers behind him, including forwards Donovan Ewolo and Robbie Kristo and midfielder Dre Fortune, who each have seven goals apiece. Defensively, NCFC has consistently received high-level performances from goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, who has six clean sheets and 79 saves in 2019.
Last Time Out
Despite falling behind in just the third minute, NCFC showed resiliency and fought back to earn a 3-1 home win against Ottawa Fury FC.
After goalkeeper Alex Tambkis did well to keep it a one-goal match heading into halftime, NCFC struck for three goals after the break, including center back Sam Brotherton's 53rd-minute headed equalizer. As the match progressed, head coach Dave Sarachan made a pair of changes, inserting both midfielder Manny Perez and forward Robbie Kristo. That decision proved to be wise, as Perez assisted on both Kristo's 82nd-minute go-ahead goal and midfielder Nazmi Albadawi's 90th-minute tally, which all but secured victory for NCFC.
Players to Watch
North Carolina FC - #27 DJ Taylor
The young right back plays a crucial role in head coach Dave Sarachan's setup, as he's counted on for both tracking back defensively and also getting forward in the NCFC attack. When at his best, Taylor can keep athletic wingers and forwards in check while also stressing opposing backlines with his runs up the right flank. Taylor, who recorded his fourth assist two weeks ago in Charleston, is coming off a strong performance against Ottawa Fury FC.
New York Red Bulls II - #25 Mathias Jørgensen
The 19-year-old Danish forward is one of the many promising young players included in the NYRB II squad. Last time out against Charleston, Jørgensen became the third player on his team to reach the 10-goal milestone this season. Jørgensen previously played for Odense Boldklub, one of the most successful clubs in Denmark, before making the switch to New York Red Bulls. Jørgensen already has MLS experience under his belt and will certainly have NCFC's attention on Saturday.
After traveling to face Nashville SC on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 8:00 p.m. ET, NCFC returns home for its regular-season finale as it hosts Saint Louis FC on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 7:00 p.m. ET for Fan Appreciation and Hamilton Night. For tickets and information please visit www.NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
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