Photo courtesy Rob Kinnan/North Carolina FC
CARY, N.C. – North Carolina FC had a rough start to life as a USL team as the Tampa Bay Rowdies were just too good, managing a 3-1 win at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday afternoon. A long run from Leo Fernandes saw the Rowdies open the scoring in the 23rd minute as he ran from midfield into the box, and placed a shot perfectly out of the reach of the goalkeeper into the right corner. In the 38th minute, NCFC's Steven Miller restored parity as the slightest of touches from Marios Lomis found Miller to hit the ball across the face of goal and into the back of the net, giving North Carolina its first USL goal. The game wasn't level long, though, as a foul from Austin da Luz on David Najem resulted in a penalty for the Rowdies, and Georgi Hristov made no mistake from the spot to restore Tampa Bay's lead just three minutes after conceding. After North Carolina pushed for much of the second half, Jack Blake sealed the match with his first USL goal in the 90th minute with a stunning strike as NCFC afforded him too much space.
23’ – TBR – Leo Fernandes (Georgi Hristov)
38’ – NC – Steven Miller (Marios Lomis)
41’ – TBR – Georgi Hristov (penalty kick)
90’ – TBR – Jack Blake (Sebastian Guenzatti)
Three Things That Matter:
1. The Rowdies scored with their very first shot on target, and that was just the start of their clinical finishing. Scoring two goals with just three shots on target in the first half, the Rowdies were able to make the most of the few chances that came their way.
2. North Carolina FC dominated possession, holding the ball 55.4 percent of the time, and especially stepped that up in the second half. But for all that possession the hosts were unable to break down a strong Rowdies defense after the break to put themselves in with a chance of taking points from their USL debut.
3. A strong defensive performance gave the Rowdies the victory. Getting stuck into challenges consistently, the Rowdies made 85.7 percent of their tackles successfully, taking the ball off the feet of the North Carolina attackers, stopping dangerous plays and breaking up their flow to stop promising opportunities.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Georgi Hristov, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Hristov was involved in the first two Rowdies goals, getting credited with an assist for the first and scoring the penalty. The Bulgarian was active throughout the match as he recorded 28 passes with a 71.4 percent passing accuracy rate.
North Carolina FC vs. Louisville City FC – March 24, 3:00p.m. ET, Louisville Slugger Field
Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Bethlehem Steel FC – March 24, 7:30p.m. ET, Al Lang Stadium