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North Carolina FC Draws Tampa Bay as Rivalry Resumes

by Fran Stuchbury
March 25, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
North Carolina FC

North Carolina FC takes on the Tampa Bay Rowdies
North Carolina FC takes on the Tampa Bay Rowdies
(North Carolina FC, Credit: Fran Stuchbury)

North Carolina FC played one of its oldest rivals, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, to a 1-1 draw in front of 1,796 fans at WakeMed Soccer Park Saturday evening.

Saturday's meeting was the 32nd time these clubs have meet through three different leagues, U.S. D2 Pro, the North American Soccer League and different USL divisions since the North Carolina team was known as the Carolina Railhawks. They rebranded as North Carolina FC in 2017. North Carolina FC now holds a 14-7-11 edge between the teams.

North Carolina FC finished with 15 shots, three on target, compared to the Rowdies who had three shots and just one on target.

After a scoreless first half Tampa Bay scored first on a corner kick that deflected off North Carolina FC midfielder Mikey Maldonado and into the net for an own goal.

"I thought the guys obviously showed a lot of character to continue to battle after going down 1-0 and make sure that we got what I clearly think we deserved, at least a point," said North Carolina FC Head Coach John Bradford. "Unfortunately (we didn't) finish some chances earlier in the game. That's the way it goes sometimes, you know, and I thought we defended really well, especially on set pieces. Unlucky in terms of the own goal, but like I said, good character from the guys and still moving in the right direction."

North Carolina FC tied it up in the 75th minute on a goal by forward Rafa Mentzingen.

"I was really excited about this one," said Mentzingen. "It's really exciting because I could dedicate it to my son that's coming in May, Enzo. So it was a special moment for sure."

Mentzingen started his soccer career in 2016 with the Southern West Virginia King Warriors of Premier Development League. In 2017 he played for Lansing United and in 2018 he joined Detroit City of the National Premier Soccer League. In 2019 he competed with the Lansing United team which only lasted one season in USL League One. In 2020 Mentzingen moved up to USL Championship with Memphis 901 before spending time in 2021 and 2022 with the Chattanooga Red Wolves of USL League One. He signed with North Carolina FC in 2023.

North Carolina is now 0-2-1 on the season. Coach Bradford feels the team will continue to improve the more playing time they have together.

"I think every opportunity we get on the field to play a different opponent, no matter what our starting eleven... it's just necessary for us to kind of get closer together and get those relationships and understandings a bit more in terms of the game context," said Bradford. "I think that as we go forward, we will just continue to get better."

North Carolina FC next plays Friday, March 29th at 7 pm against Hartford Athletic at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Images from this story

North Carolina FC takes on the Tampa Bay Rowdies
North Carolina FC takes on the Tampa Bay Rowdies

(Fran Stuchbury)

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