North Carolina FC Heads West for Test at Swope Park Rangers
Cary, N.C. - North Carolina FC begins a two-game road swing in Kansas City, Kan., on Saturday as it takes on Swope Park Rangers at 5:00 p.m. ET at Children's Mercy Park.
NCFC (13W-7L-8D, 47 points) is coming off a 3-3 draw at home against Bethlehem Steel and with six regular-season games remaining holds sixth place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference, where the top 10 teams qualify for the postseason.
Saturday's match will be NCFC's second against Swope Park in 2019. On June 15, head coach Dave Sarachan's team defeated Swope Park 2-0 in Cary behind goals from forward Yamikani Chester and midfielder Dre Fortune and a shutout by goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod.
Swope Park (3W-16L-7D), which is affiliated with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer, is in 18th place in the Eastern Conference. Coached by Paulo Nagamura, Swope Park most recently drew 0-0 on Wednesday against the Charleston Battery, NCFC's next opponent following Saturday's match.
Following its three-goal showing against Bethlehem, NCFC has 50 goals on the season, tied for the second-most in the Eastern Conference. Midfielder Steven Miller, amidst a career year, leads the way with nine goals and six assists as the top man of a deep NCFC attack. With forward Robbie Kristo's brace against Bethlehem, NCFC is the only team in the USL Championship to feature five players with six-plus goals.
The NCFC defense will look to get back on track against a Swope team whose 31 goals are the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference. As a team, NCFC has eight clean sheets (seventh-most in the Eastern Conference), six of which have come with Greek goalkeeper Alex Tambakis starting.
Felipe Hernandez, a 21-year-old midfielder who made his MLS debut last weekend, leads Swope Park with eight goals and played in Wednesday's 0-0 draw against Charleston.
Last Time Out
NCFC used a goal from captain Austin da Luz and a Robbie Kristo brace to earn a 3-3 draw against Bethlehem Steel at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. It was a positive start for NCFC, as da Luz opened the scoring in the ninth minute with his second goal of the year.
Eleven minutes later, NCFC's advantage doubled when Kristo skied high and headed home midfielder Graham Smith's free kick, making it 2-0 in the 20th minute. Right before the halftime whistle blew, Bethlehem got on the board via a goal by Yomi Scintu in the 45th minute, but NCFC still took a 2-1 lead into the break.
Not long after the restart, NCFC's two-goal lead was restored through Kristo, who secured his first brace of the season with a chip of Bethlehem's Morton in the 47th minute.
The visitors made it a 3-2 game thanks to a tally by their captain, James Chambers, in the 60th minute.
Against the run of play, Bethlehem pulled even in the 84th minute on a score by substitute Shanyder Borgelin. Despite a late push by NCFC that included an effort from right back DJ Taylor in stoppage time, the game featured no more goals and the two teams split the points.
Players to Watch
North Carolina FC - #18 Robbie Kristo
The 6'4" targetman has been among the most efficient scorers in the USL Championship this season. In 567 minutes of action, Kristo has six goals in his first year with NCFC. His 0.95 goals per 90 minutes average ranks third in the USL Championship among players with at least 500 minutes played. Having scored twice last time out, Kristo is definitely one to watch on Saturday.
Swope Park Rangers - #92 Alexsander Andrade
The Brazilian winger is capable of breaking down a backline and has been a catalyst in the Swope Park attack this season. His 36 chances created are the most on the team, and keeping an eye on the Brazilian playmaker will be important for NCFC on Saturday.
North Carolina FC hits the road again for a Southern Derby showdown against the Charleston Battery on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 2:00 p.m. ET. With a win or a draw, NCFC can capture its fifth Southern Derby title, as NCFC is currently 1W-0L-2D against Charleston and the Charlotte Independence this season.
NCFC's next home match comes against Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET. For tickets and information please visit NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
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