North Carolina FC Closes Three-Game USL Road Trip on Saturday Versus Tampa Bay
CARY, N.C. - North Carolina FC (5W-2L-5D, 20 points) concludes its longest USL Championship road trip of the regular season with a visit to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies (8W-0L-5D, 29 points) Saturday evening at Al Lang Stadium.
NCFC, which most recently earned a 1-1 draw at Hartford Athletic last weekend, is 1W-0L-1D on its current road swing, having previously earned a 2-1 win at New York Red Bulls II on May 24.
Across all competitions, NCFC is unbeaten in its past five matches (3W-0L-2D) and currently occupies seventh place in the Eastern Conference. On Saturday, head coach Dave Sarachan's group will attempt to become the first team to defeat league-leading Tampa Bay in USL Championship action this season.
The Rowdies, who have conceded only four goals this season, are coming off a 2-0 victory at Birmingham Legion FC, their ninth clean sheet of the campaign. Tampa Bay's leading goalscorer, Sebastian Guenzatti, opened up the scoring with a 28th-minute goal, his sixth of the season. The Rowdies tacked on a second goal through Andrew Tinari's 44th-minute score.
Tampa Bay is led by head coach Neil Collins, who is in his first full season with the club after taking over in May 2018.
NCFC was victorious in its last trip to Al Lang Stadium, a 2-0 win on Aug. 11, 2018.
Last Time Out
Making its first-ever trip to East Hartford, Conn., NCFC used a strong second-half performance to earn a 1-1 draw against Hartford Athletic. Trailing by a goal, NCFC got back on even terms in the 58th-minute via a strike by forward Yamikani Chester.
After a partial Hartford clearance, Chester took on a defender, veered to the right and smartly slotted a shot past Hartford goalkeeper Frederik Due.
Following a goal by Hartford in the game's first minute, the NCFC defense and goalkeeper Alex Tambakis remained strong, holding the hosts to just one additional shot on target.
Midfielder Nazmi Albadawi, a long-time NCFC fan favorite, made the first appearance of his second stint with the club, having recently arrived on loan from FC Cincinnati. Albadawi, a Raleigh native and alumnus of N.C. State University and Athens Drive High School, played for NCFC from 2014-17, and has agreed to a deal with NCFC through the 2020 season.
Players to Watch
North Carolina FC - #11 Yamikani Chester
In his first season with the club, Yamikani Chester has made himself known to opponents thanks to his speed and ability to cause danger in attacking positions. Given his second league start of the season, the Malawi international capitalized, scoring his first goal of the USL Championship campaign against Hartford Athletic. Chester has a pair of goals in his last four appearances, having scored for the first time in his NCFC career in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup against Richmond on May 15.
Tampa Bay Rowdies - #1 John McCarthy
Tampa Bay is allowing an average of only 0.31 goals per game, and much of that has to do with the work done by goalkeeper John McCarthy. In his first season with the club after most recently playing for the Philadelphia Union and Bethlehem Steel FC, McCarthy has a league-leading nine shutouts, and most recently made four saves, including one on a penalty kick, against Birmingham.
NCFC will resume Open Cup play when it travels up north to take on New York City FC of Major League Soccer in the fourth round of the competition on Wednesday, June 12 at 7 p.m. The match will be played at Belson Stadium in Queens, on the campus of St. John's University.
NCFC's all-time record in the competition is 23-11, with six of the victories coming against MLS sides. In 2007, the club's first season, NCFC reached the semifinals of the Open Cup.
In May, NCFC defeated the Richmond Kickers 4-1 and the Florida Soccer Soldiers in the second and third rounds of the competition, respectively.
NCFC returns home on Saturday, June 15, to face Swope Park Rangers in the first match of the Pride Night doubleheader, presented by Credit Suisse, at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park at 5 p.m. The game will be followed by a match between the NC Courage and Portland Thorns scheduled for 7:45 p.m.. NCFC is unbeaten at home in league play (2W-0L-3D).
For tickets and information please visit NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
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