North Carolina FC Returns Home to Face Atlanta United 2 on Saturday
Cary, N.C. - North Carolina FC will play the first of two consecutive home matches when it hosts Atlanta United 2 at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, July 27, at 7 p.m. ET.
NCFC, which was narrowly defeated 1-0 on the road this past weekend against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, holds a 9W-4L-7D record (34 points) and finds itself in fourth place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference. Head coach Dave Sarachan's team is just three points behind third-place Indy Eleven, who NCFC hosts on Aug. 3.
Atlanta United 2 (3W-11L-5D, 14 points), coached by former Carolina RailHawk Stephen Glass, is in 17th place in the Eastern Conference and is coming off a 2-2 draw at home against at Charlotte Independence. NCFC holds the all-time series lead (2W-1L-0D) against Atlanta, and a win on Saturday would extend NCFC's unbeaten run at home this season. NCFC is one of just three teams in the Eastern Conference to have avoided defeat at its home ground in 2019, with a 5W-0L-4D record at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Part of NCFC's success at home can be contributed to its strong defensive play. Goalkeepers Alex Tambakis and Darrin MacLeod have combined to keep a clean sheet in four of NCFC's last five home matches, dating back to May 18. As a team, NCFC has conceded just 16 goals through 20 matches, the third-lowest total in the league. Tambakis, who's in his second year with NCFC, has five shutouts and his save percentage (.806) is the second-highest in the USL Championship.
Offensively, NCFC has scored the fifth-most goals (31) in the Eastern Conference. In doing so, Sarachan's team has shown how much depth it has. While the injured Marios Lomis leads NCFC with six goals, midfielder Steven Miller and forward Yamikani Chester are tied for second with five tallies apiece.
NCFC will hope to capitalize at home against an Atlanta United 2 side that is 1W-5L-4D on the road this season and playing away from home for the fifth time in six matches.
Last Time Out
Facing one of the league's toughest defenses, NCFC fell 1-0 last Saturday on the road against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC despite a strong performance from goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, who tied his season-high with six saves.
Midfielder Graham Smith nearly gave NCFC the lead in the 26th minute, as his shot from the top of the 18-yard-box rolled just wide to the left. Moments later, Pittsburgh scored the game's only goal on a strike by midfielder Robbie Mertz in the 27th minute.
Despite trailing at the break, NCFC mounted pressure as the game progressed in the second half. After coming on as a second-half substitute in the 62nd minute, NCFC's Donovan Ewolo continuously caused problems for Pittsburgh's backline. In the 70th minute, the Cameroonian forward was in on goal but had his shot deflected at the last moment by Ryan James of the Riverhounds. Despite a late push, NCFC couldn't find an equalizer.
Players to Watch
North Carolina FC - #7 Donovan Ewolo
A season ago, Ewolo showed that he enjoys playing against Atlanta United 2. In two games against Atlanta in 2018, the Cameroonian striker scored five goals, four of which came in a 6-1 win last September. This season, Ewolo has two goals to his name and nearly added another last time out against Pittsburgh. If past performance is an indicator, Ewolo could have a big day on Saturday.
Atlanta United 2- #36 Jackson Conway
Just 17 years old, Conway is already in his second season with Atlanta United 2. A product of Atlanta United's academy setup, Conway plays at forward and has made an impact this season. Of the active members of the team, Conway is in a four-way tie for leading scorer with two goals. In Atlanta's last game against Charlotte, the youngster recorded an assist.
NCFC returns to Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park for a pivotal match against Indy Eleven on Saturday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m. ET. Just three points separate the two teams in the Eastern Conference standings, and they played to a scoreless draw the last time they met in early May. For tickets and information please visit NorthCarolinaFC.com or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.
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