North Carolina FC Wins Southern Derby Cup, Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive with NC Derby Win
MATTHEWS, N.C. - North Carolina FC picked up a huge result with a 3-1 victory over the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night at the Sportsplex at Matthews. The win has earned North Carolina FC supporters the Southern Derby Cup and will keep NCFC's playoff hopes alive going into the final day of the regular season.
To qualify for the playoffs, North Carolina FC will await the result of the Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies game on Sunday. NCFC will need Bethlehem to lose by four goals to catch up on goal difference and advance on the tiebreaker.
The club has also captured the Southern Derby Cup, returning the trophy to the club's supporters for the first time since 2009 - which was the last year the club was previously involved in the competition. NCFC has now won the trophy four times in the history of the franchise. (2018, 2009, 2008, 2007)
Charlotte entered the match riding a seven-game undefeated streak, but has lost to North Carolina FC for the third time this season. North Carolina FC now holds a 5W-1L record in official matches over the Charlotte Independence, while outscoring the in-state rivals 20-5.
A lightning-quick start saw both teams score within the opening six minutes. NCFC opened the scoring when Daniel Rios notched his 19th goal of the year. The forward took advantage of a through ball from Victor Igbekoyi, cut to the left to shake the defender and buried his shot at the far post.
However, just 30 seconds later, Charlotte's Jorge Herrera pulled his side level with a bicycle kick. Herrera took advantage of a botched clearance and made no mistake on his perfectly-placed overhead kick.
Despite NCFC's advantage in possession and shots, the teams entered halftime knotted at 1-1.
After the restart, the game continued its end-to-end play, but neither side could find the back of the net. With time winding down, a late rally allowed North Carolina FC to firmly take control of the match, scoring two goals in quick succession.
Rios clinched the win in the 87th minute with his 20th goal of the season off an assist from Donovan Ewolo. NCFC also added another crucial goal towards its goal difference in stoppage time, as Steven Miller scored off an assist from Kyle Bekker to bring the game to its final score.
The result of the Bethlehem Steel FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies match will determine if North Carolina FC qualifies for the 2018 USL playoffs. Tampa must win by a four-goal margin to lower Bethlehem's goal difference and allow NCFC to advance on the tiebreaker.
Daniel Rios tallied his 19th and 20th goals of the USL season, which equals NCFC's single season goal scoring record of 20 goals set by Etienne Barbara in 2011.
Steven Miller notched his fourth goal of the season.
Kyle Bekker and Donovan Ewolo both recorded assists in the contest.
Austin Guerrero made his regular-season debut for NCFC and started in goal. He previously appeared in two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup contests.
CLT (4-4-2): Brandon Miller; Samuel Vines, Henry Kalungi, Bilal Duckett ©, Kay Voser (Donnie Smith, 80'); Alex Martinez (Derek Gebhard, 63'), Greg Jordan (Yann Ekra, 82'), Conor O'Brien, Cordell Cato; Jorge Herrera, Eamon Zayed
Subs not used: Mutaya Mwape, Andrew Dykstra, Bertrand Eko'o
NCFC (4-5-1): Austin Guerrero; Aaron Guillen, Connor Tobin ©, Michael Harrington, DJ Taylor; Kyle Bekker, Graham Smith, Zach Steinberger (Donovan Ewolo, 65'), Victor Igbekoyi (Nelson Blanco, 74'), Steven Miller; Daniel Rios
Subs not used: Alex Tambakis, Dre Fortune, Marios Lomis, Peabo Doue
CLT: Jorge Herrera (Unassisted, 6')
NCFC: Daniel Rios (Victor Igbekoyi, 5', Donovan Ewolo, 87'), Steven Miller (Kyle Bekker, 90+')
CLT: Jorge Herrera 7'
NCFC: Graham Smith 30', Victor Igbekoyi 73'
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