Playoff Race Heads North for North Carolina FC Matchup at Penn FC
CARY, N.C. - North Carolina FC (9W-10L-8T, 35 points, 10th place) will face a road test against Penn FC (9W-10L-8T, 35 points, 11th place) on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. ET at FNB Field in Harrisburg, Penn. With playoff hopes on the line for both teams, the weekend's matchup serves as another critically important game, as the team looks to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings and prevent Penn FC from moving up the table.
The teams enter the week level on points with 35 each. Both teams are four points out of a playoff spot, trailing Nashville SC who currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot with 39 points.
Earlier in the season, NCFC soundly defeated Penn FC 3-0 in Cary with goals from Austin da Luz, Kyle Bekker and Daniel Rios. Penn FC went on an impressive run in June to climb the table, but inconsistent play as of late has seen Penn move to 11th place with work to do in order to clinch a postseason appearance.
The match is the first of another three-game road trip for NCFC, who on its previous three-game road trip just weeks ago, earned four points. With the points meaning even more with the final games of the regular season on the horizon, NCFC will need to continue that strong away form to stay in the playoff hunt.
The side will lean on its in-form players in Rios and Zach Steinberger. Rios is the team's leading scorer with 16 goals on the year, which ranks tied for second in the league. Steinberger has been on fire after recently being loaned to the club for the rest season. The midfielder has scored three goals in his first three games and will certainly look for more.
Last Time Out:
NCFC battled fellow playoff contender Nashville SC to a 3-3 draw in Cary. Rios, Steinberger and Tiyi Shipalane all scored. However, a stingy Nashville team fought back and tallied a late equalizer to split the points.
Players To Watch:
NCFC - No. 22 Tiyi Shipalane:
Shipalane has been dangerous along the wing this season. Despite his veteran status, the midfielder has injected NCFC with attacking flair whether starting or coming off the bench. In his last three games, Shipalane has recorded a goal and an assist while setting up plenty of scoring chances. Look the for the veteran to keep turning back the clock as NCFC pushes towards the playoffs.
Penn FC - No. 77 Lucky Mkosana
Mkosana, Penn FC's leading scorer, has tallied 10 goals this season. He's scoring goals on 25 percent of his shots and is a danger inside the box. The Zimbabwean has faced NCFC regularly in his career in stints with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Cosmos. Look for Mkosana to get plenty of service as he tries to extend his goal scoring form.
North Carolina FC will take on Atlanta United 2 on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. at Coolray Field in Atlanta as the team continues its playoff push. NCFC will return home to face regional rival the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, Sept. 29. Tickets are available online, over the phone at 919-459-8144 or in-person at the Coastal Credit Union Box Office.
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