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North Carolina FC Set to Host Wednesday Night Showdown with Tampa Bay Rowdies

August 19, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - North Carolina FC News Release

Cary, N.C. - Coming off its largest win of the season, North Carolina FC has quickly turned the page and is preparing to host the Tampa Bay Rowdies Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNews and WatchESPN.

Up to fifth place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference, NCFC (12W-5L-7D, 43 points) most recently defeated Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 5-0 last weekend. With the win, head coach Dave Sarachan's team is just three points behind second-place Tampa Bay (13W-3L-7D, 46 points) in the jam-packed upper portion of the table. Tampa Bay, which previously held first place for a large portion of the season, is coming off a 1-0 loss at home against Birmingham Legion FC on Aug. 10.

Wednesday's match is the second and final regular-season game between the two clubs this season. On June 8, NCFC went on the road and defeated the previously undefeated Rowdies, winning 3-1 as NCFC midfielder Dre Fortune scored two goals. Entering that match, Tampa Bay had avoided defeat in its opening 13 games and hadn't conceded a goal in over 529 minutes.

A win on Wednesday would mark the first time since 2016 that NCFC has won multiple games against Tampa Bay in the same season. In order to achieve that feat, NCFC will need to maneuver past one of the league's toughest defenses. Led by goalkeeper John McCarthy (.803 save%, nine clean sheets), the Rowdies have conceded only 16 goals, tied for the fewest in the USL Championship. However, NCFC is coming off its highest-scoring performance of the year and its 43 goals are the third-most in the Eastern Conference.

One of the most well-balanced offenses in the league, NCFC is one of only two teams in the USL Championship featuring four players with six-plus goals this season. Leading the way are midfielder Steven Miller and forward Donovan Ewolo, who each have seven goals. Miller also leads the team in assists with six.

Like Tampa Bay, the NCFC defense has been stout. Coming off a shutout victory against Pittsburgh, NCFC goalkeepers Alex Tambakis and Darrin MacLeod have combined for eight clean sheets. With help from his backline of Aaron Guillen, Sam Brotherton, Alex Comsia and DJ Taylor, Tambakis holds the second-highest save percentage in the Eastern Conference (.774).

Offensively, Tampa Bay is led in scoring by forward and captain Sebastian Guenzatti, who has 12 goals, the second-most in the Eastern Conference.

Last Time Out

NCFC turned in its most dominant offensive performance of the year, defeating Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 5-0 as forward Donovan Ewolo and midfielder Dre Fortune each recorded braces. Having already controlled most of the first half, NCFC received a boost when Pittsburgh's Thomas Vancaeyezeele was shown a red card for his challenge on Fortune in the 18-yard box in the 44th minute. Right before the break, Fortune converted from the penalty spot to give NCFC the lead, one that would only grow larger.

Starting with Ewolo's 50th-minute header from a cross by Fortune, NCFC scored three goals in a nine-minute span to put the game away. In the 57th minute, Ewolo missed a penalty kick but collected the rebound and slotted it home, and Fortune grabbed his second of the night in the 59th minute from close range.

In full control, NCFC grabbed a fifth when substitute Robbie Kristo scored in the 75th minute, his fourth goal of the season. The NCFC defense was solid all around, as Pittsburgh failed to register a shot on target. The shutout was NCFC's eighth of the year.

Players to Watch

North Carolina FC - #8 Dre Fortune

The month of August has been good to Fortune, one of NCFC's talented homegrown players. The 23-year-old NCFC Academy product has scored three goals in three matches this month while also recording an assist. Now in his fourth season professionally, the Raleigh native is playing well consistently, with NCFC head coach Dave Sarachan commending the young midfielder for his improvement defensively as well.

Tampa Bay Rowdies - #8 Zach Steinberger

Steinberger should be a familiar name to NCFC fans. While on loan with the club from Indy Eleven in 2018, he scored four goals and had three assists in just 10 appearances. Now in Tampa Bay, Steinberger is having a solid 2019 (three goals, two assists). Steinberger found the back of the net in this season's first matchup between the two teams, and NCFC will have to keep an eye on him Wednesday.

Looking Ahead

NCFC hits the road to take on Louisville City FC on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 3:00 p.m. ET. NCFC's next home match comes against Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7:00 p.m. ET. For tickets and information please visit or call the Coastal Credit Union Box Office at 919-459-8144.

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