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North Carolina FC Faces Southern Derby Rival Charlotte on Fourth of July

July 2, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - North Carolina FC News Release

CARY, N.C. - North Carolina FC will attempt to extend its excellent run of form when it hosts Southern Derby rival Charlotte Independence on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park as part of North Carolina Football Club's Independence Day Celebrations, presented by Segra.

NCFC is unbeaten in its last seven USL Championship matches and is coming off a 1-0 win against Nashville SC last weekend. That victory moved NCFC up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, as head coach Dave Sarachan's team has now collected 30 points through the first 16 games of the season (8W-2L-6D). Thursday's match is NCFC's third against a Southern Derby rival this season, with the team currently leading the three-team table over the Independence and the Charleston Battery, having drawn Charleston 1-1 in March and defeated Charlotte 3-0 in April. NCFC looks to repeat as Southern Derby champions for the first time since 2007-09, when it won the competition three years in a row.

Since 2016, NCFC has won six straight competitive matches against Charlotte, outscoring the Independence 23-4 in that span.

Charlotte enters the match in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, most recently defeating Memphis 901 FC 1-0 last weekend. Since parting ways with former head coach Jim McGuinness on June 12, the Independence have yet to lose, going 2W-0L-2D in its most-recent four matches under Mike Jeffries, the team's general manager who has assumed head-coaching duties. Ghanian striker Dominic Oduro leads the Independence in scoring with six goals to his name, and the Independence as a whole have notched 19 goals through 17 matches.

However, Charlotte will encounter an NCFC defense that has held opponents to only 13 goals in 2019, the third-lowest total in the league. A well-balanced team, NCFC also ranks third in goals scored in the Eastern Conference (27), and is the only side in the conference to feature nine players with multiple goals on the season.

Last Time Out

NCFC remained unbeaten at home (6W-0L-3D across all competitions) by winning 1-0 against Nashville SC in a battle between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Nashville entered the game in fourth place and NCFC in fifth, but the teams swapped spots in the standings after the NCFC win. Midfielder Ben Speas scored the game's only goal, a 30th-minute strike set up by defender Aaron Guillen, who recorded his first assist of the season.

From start to finish, the NCFC defense remained strong, as Nashville was held scoreless for just the second time this season. NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis made five saves in earning his fifth clean sheet of the season.

Rookie midfielder Austin Panchot made his first league start of the season for NCFC and played 80 minutes, and midfielder Austin da Luz returned from injury, appearing in a league match for the first time since April 20 against Charlotte.

Players to Watch

North Carolina FC - #7 Donovan Ewolo

The Cameroonian forward is dangerous up top for NCFC, having recently scored in a 1-1 draw against Saint Louis FC on June 22. Now in his second year with the club, Ewolo has proven himself as an athletic striker who can impact the game in a number of ways. In NCFC's recent 1-0 win against Nashville, Ewolo helped secure the result with his defense in the game's dying minutes.

Charlotte Independence - #19 Enzo Martinez

Charlotte's Martinez brothers, Enzo and Alex, should be familiar names to longtime NCFC fans. Both players played for the club in the past, including Enzo, who spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Cary. Enzo Martinez now captains the Independence and leads the team in assists with five. Making sure he doesn't have the time and space to create for the Independence will be key to a good NCFC performance.

Looking Ahead

NCFC hits the road for its first-ever trip to Alabama to take on Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday, July 13, at 8 p.m. ET.

NCFC's next home match is against new USL Championship side Loudoun United on Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. For tickets and information please visit or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.

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