North Carolina FC Returns Home Saturday to Face Swope Park Rangers
CARY, N.C. - North Carolina FC returns to Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park for its first home USL Championship match in one month when it hosts Swope Park Rangers Saturday at 5 p.m. as part of North Carolina Football Club's Pride Night Doubleheader. The match will be followed by a game between the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC that's set to kick off at 7:45 p.m.
Head coach Dave Sarachan's squad is unbeaten at home this season, holding a 2W-0L-3D record in Cary.
Three months into the season, NCFC finds itself in sixth place in the Eastern Conference after earning points in four consecutive league matches. NCFC earned two wins and a draw on its recent three-match league road swing, its longest of the season.
The road trip concluded with a 3-1 victory at the previously undefeated Tampa Bay Rowdies last weekend. Midfielder Dre Fortune, a Raleigh native and NCFC Academy product, scored twice in the victory, earning USL Championship Player of the Week honors. Entering the match, the Rowdies had recorded four consecutive shutouts.
Saturday's match will be the first ever between NCFC and Swope Park Rangers, which is affiliated with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer.
The Rangers are in their first season in the Eastern Conference, having previously played in the Western Conference. Former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Paulo Nagamura is in his second season coaching the Rangers, who are 1W-7L-5D and in 18th place in the Eastern Conference.
Rangers are coming off a 0-0 draw at home against the Charlotte Independence, as Nagamura's group recorded its second shutout of the season. Rangers are led in scoring by 21-year-old midfielder Felipe Hernandez, who has five goals and recently signed a short-term loan agreement with Sporting Kansas City for its U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday.
Last Time Out
Appearing in the fourth round of the tournament for the fourth consecutive year, NCFC exited the 2019 U.S. Open Cup with a 4-0 loss at New York City FC on Wednesday in Queens, N.Y. Facing an MLS opponent for the 15th time in its Open Cup history, NCFC reached Wednesday's match by defeating the Richmond Kickers and the Florida Soccer Soldiers in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Against NYCFC, North Carolina FC created several scoring chances and nearly took the lead in the 16th minute when midfielder Steven Miller forced opposing goalkeeper Brad Stuver into an uncomfortable save off of a short corner kick. NCFC nearly got on the board on several occasions in the second half. In the 73rd minute, midfielder Ben Speas did well to find midfielder Nazmi Albadawi, who fired a shot just wide to the left of the goal. Not long after, defender Caleb Duvernay, an NCFC Academy product, came inches away from finding the back of the net, but saw his shot deflect off the right post.
Players to Watch
North Carolina FC - #21 Nazmi Albadawi
A homegrown player who quickly became a fan-favorite, midfielder Nazmi Albadawi could make the first home appearance of his second stint with NCFC on Saturday. Albadawi, a Raleigh native and alumnus of N.C. State and Athens Drive, is on loan with the club from FC Cincinnati through 2019, and he's agreed to a deal with NCFC through 2020. Albadawi played with NCFC from 2014-17, appearing in 113 matches, recording 21 goals and adding 19 assists across all competitions. From 2016-17, Albadawi served as captain.
Swope Park Rangers- #92 Alexander Andrade
The 20-year-old Brazilian is a catalyst in the Rangers' attack, often creating chances with his creative flare. Andrade's five assists are a team-high, and he set up the game-winning goal in the 90th minute of Rangers' 3-2 win over Louisville City FC on May 6. For NCFC, stopping Andrade would go a long way in slowing down the Rangers' attack.
NCFC hits the road for its first-ever match against Saint Louis FC on Saturday, June 22, at 8:30 p.m. NCFC is 4W-2L-2D on the road this season.
On June 29, NCFC returns home for a match against Nashville SC at 7 p.m. For tickets and information please visit NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
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