North Carolina FC Hands League-Leading Tampa Bay First Loss of Season
St. Petersburg, Fla. - North Carolina FC became the first team to defeat the USL Championship-leading Tampa Bay Rowdies, winning 3-1 Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
Raleigh native and former NCFC Youth product Dre Fortune scored twice in the victory, as head coach Dave Sarachan's team finished its longest league road trip of the season unbeaten.
With the win, NCFC improved to 6W-2L-5D (23 points), good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
After settling into the game both offensively and defensively, Fortune opened up the scoring in the 19th minute with his first league goal of the year. Midfielder Nazmi Albadawi, playing in just the second game of his second stint with the club, set up Fortune from the edge of the box, and Fortune calmly slotted his effort into the bottom right corner of the net.
The goal was the first scored against the Rowdies by a USL Championship opponent since April 27, ending a 548-minute stretch of no goals against Tampa Bay.
On the other end of the pitch, NCFC's Alex Tambakis did his part, making six saves. The most impressive arguably came in the 23rd minute, as the Greek goalkeeper denied Tampa Bay's leading goalscorer, Sebastián Guenzatti, from point-blank range.
After going into the break with the lead, NCFC doubled its advantage as Fortune secured a brace in the 48th minute. Making a run on goal, NCFC forward Donovan Ewolo cleverly faked inside before playing in a left-footed service that Fortune poked in, making NCFC the first team to score multiple goals against the Rowdies in 2019.
Tampa Bay pulled one back with former NCFC midfielder Zach Steinberger's 54th-minute goal. But Sarachan's side was ultimately able to keep its cool, and NCFC restored its multi-goal lead in the 77th minute. Positioned out on the left flank, midfielder Steven Miller cut inside and let loose on a shot that slipped through the hands of Tampa Bay's McCarthy.
The goal was Miller's fourth of the season.
From that point on, NCFC saw out the result, securing its second consecutive win at Al Lang Stadium.
Fact To Know
Tampa Bay had conceded just four goals in its first 13 USL Championship matches before NCFC scored three times Saturday.
- NCFC improved to 6W-0L-0D when scoring first and 5W-0L-0D when leading at halftime.
- NCFC now has four road wins, a milestone it didn't reach until Sept. 16, last season. NCFC went 2W-0L-1D against New York Red Bulls II, Hartford Athletic and Tampa Bay Rowdies from May 24-June 8.
- Rookie midfielder Austin Panchot made his first league appearance of the year, replacing Ben Speas in the 78th minute.
- Steven Miller's four goals are the second-most on the team.
- NCFC's youth-to-pro pipeline was on full display as NCFC Academy alumni DJ Taylor and Dre Fortune started alongside former NCFC U-23 standouts Nazmi Albadawi and Alex Comsia. Academy product Caleb Duvernay was named to the bench.
- Nazmi Albadawi notched his first assist since returning to the club he played for from 2014-17. The Raleigh native recorded 19 assists across all competitions during his first stint with NCFC.
- Donovan Ewolo recorded his second assist of the season, and his first since the USL Championship opener on March 9 against Louisville City FC.
NCFC will resume Lamar Hunt U.S. 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.
TBR (3-4-1-2): John McCarthy; Tarek Morad, Pape Diakite, Mohamed Kone (Antoine Hoppenot, 46'); Caleb Richards, Dominic Oduro, Kwadwo Poku, Malik Johnson; Andrew Tinari (Zach Steinberger, 45+1'); Juan Tejada, Sebastian Guenzatti © (Brandon Allen, 74')
Subs not used: Chris Konopka, Ryan Felix, Yann Ekra, Jordan Doherty
NCFC (4-2-3-1): Alex Tambakis; Aaron Guillen, Sam Brotherton, Alex Comsia, DJ Taylor; Graham Smith, Nazmi Albadawi; Steven Miller ©, Dre Fortune (Victor Igbekoyi, 80'), Ben Speas (Austin Panchot, 78'); Donovan Ewolo (Robert Kristo, 85')
Subs not used: Darrin MacLeod, Caleb Duvernay, Duval Wapiwo, Yamikani Chester
TBR: Zach Steinberger (Tarek Morad, 74')
NCFC: Dre Fortune (Nazmi Albadawi, 19', Donovan Ewolo, 48'), Steven Miller (Ben Speas, 77')
TBR: Antoine Hoppenot 61'
NCFC: Nazmi Albadawi 28'
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