North Carolina FC Readies for Road Test at Birmingham Legion FC
Cary, N.C. - North Carolina FC will begin the second half of the USL Championship regular season and return to the pitch for the first time in nine days when it travels to face Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET at BBVA Field.
Seventeen games into the 34-match campaign, head coach Dave Sarachan's squad holds an 8W-2L-7D record (31 points), good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and is riding an eight-match unbeaten run in league play.
NCFC's point streak began with a scoreless draw at home against Birmingham on May 18, as NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis recorded the fourth of his five clean sheets, making three saves. Unlucky not to score, NCFC outshot Birmingham 17-10, and Marios Lomis and Steven Miller both saw shots hit the woodwork.
With Tambakis leading the charge, NCFC's defense has been among the USL Championship's best. The 14 goals conceded by NCFC are the third-fewest in the league, and Tambakis and Darrin MacLeod have combined for six shutouts. Offensively, NCFC has proven itself as a dangerous side to face because of its well-balanced attack. While Lomis leads NCFC with six goals, nine different players have two-plus goals, including midfielder Steven Miller, who has five and is first on the team in assists (four).
One of seven expansion sides in the USL Championship, Birmingham is 3W-10L-4D (13 points) and in 16th place in the Eastern Conference. Birmingham, which is coached by Tom Soehn, has lost four of its last five matches and last won on April 27 against Loudoun United.
Coming off its bye week, Saturday's match will be Birmingham's first since June 29, when it dropped a 4-1 result on the road against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
Last Time Out
Playing in front of a home crowd on the Fourth of July, NCFC extended its unbeaten streak against Southern Derby rival Charlotte Independence to seven matches with a 1-1 draw. Malawi international Yamikani Chester opened the scoring in the third minute for NCFC with his third goal of the season. NCFC outshot Charlotte 18-5, but couldn't find a second goal against opposing goalkeeper Brandon Miller, who made nine saves.
With the result, NCFC remained unbeaten at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park this season (4W-0L-4D) and avoided defeat in league play for the eighth consecutive match.
Players to Watch
North Carolina FC - #27 DJ Taylor
Now in his second full season with the club, former NCFC Youth Academy product DJ Taylor has blossomed at right back, proving himself as a regular fixture in Sarachan's starting lineup. The Raleigh native is the only NCFC player to have played every minute of the USL Championship regular season up to this point, and he's made good use of that time. Known for his speed and quick decisionmaking, Taylor has excelled at slowing down opposing attackers while getting in on the NCFC attack himself in the final third.
Birmingham Legion FC - #9 Chandler Hoffman
Hoffman, a Birmingham native, has the distinction of being Birmingham's first-ever signing. The former LA Galaxy man also has MLS experience with the Philadelphia Union and the Houston Dynamo. Hoffman was the first player to reach the 50-goal milestone in USL Championship history, so it's no surprise that he leads Birmingham with four goals.
NCFC returns to Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park to take on Loudoun United on Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. The match will be the first between the two teams, as Loudoun United is currently in its first-ever season. For tickets and information please visit NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
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