North Carolina FC Move to Top of the Table After Picking Up Three Points
By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press
A stunning brace from Oalex Anderson secured a 2-0 victory for North Carolina FC over Charlotte Independence at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday evening, in the latest installment of the in-state rivalry, The Dogwood Derby.
North Carolina FC’s Oalex Anderson nearly opened the scoring in the 12th minute after he struck a low effort that was not far from hitting the target.
Charlotte Independence midfielder Avionne Flanagan sent a low cross across the face of goal in the 17th minute towards the path of Dane Kelly. Kelly was able to get a finishing touch, but the goal was ruled offside.
North Carolina FC forward Rafa Mentzingen struck a low effort on goal in the 18th minute that was saved by Charlotte Independence goalkeeper Austin Pack.
North Carolina FC received a set piece in the 21st minute and a set piece play was made to roll the ball into the path of Mentzingen. Mentzingen hit a shot towards goal that was blocked.
A nearly identical set piece play occurred from a free kick in the 40th minute when the ball was rolled into the path of Jaden Servania. Servania’s effort was saved, but Oalex Anderson pounced on a rebound and opened the scoring to give North Carolina FC a 1-0 lead.
In the 48th minute, North Carolina FC midfielder Jaden Servania struck a bouncing ball back into the ground that slipped past the post.
North Carolina FC center back Gustavo Fernandes took an intelligent free kick in the 59th minute and played a low ball into the path of forward Garrett McLaughlin. McLaughlin was able to pin his defender and receive the ball with his back to goal. McLauglin pulled off a backheel pass into the path of Oalex Anderson. Anderson hit a shot with his weaker foot that cannoned off the crossbar and came down to double NCFC’s advantage.
Charlotte Independence nearly halved the deficit in the 76th minute when Khori Bennett struck a low volley that slipped past the near post.
Garrett McLaughlin nearly found a third goal in the 82nd minute with an effort that struck the crossbar. Rafa Mentzingen was able to collect the rebound and hit a curling effort towards the far post that was saved.
North Carolina FC completed the match and kept their two goal advantage to close out the match.
The win momentarily places North Carolina FC at the top of the USL League One table with 26 points.
North Carolina FC head coach John Bradford spoke about the absences of key players such as Nelson Flores Blanco and Raheem Somersall due to the pair being involved in international duty for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. North Carolina FC goalkeeper Nicholas Holliday, suffered an injury during the lead up to the match on Friday. The team was able to produce a cohesive performance without the presence of these three stars.
Luis Arriaga was able to make his 100th professional appearance in the midfield during hte match as well.
“Yeah, I mean, I think our group from every single player obviously was committed to the focus tonight to try to get a win,” Bradford said. “We miss, Nelson, Raheem, and Nick obviously got injured this week and that kind of thing, but it just shows the quality of the group overall, the tremendous depth and the attitude of the group to make sure we kind of get a result tonight.”
Bradford also spoke about the team’s great ability to work together, specifically the strike partnership between Garrett McLaughlin and Oalex Anderson. Anderson and McLaughlin featured a lot together in the previous season and looked sharp together in this match.
“You see them in training, you see them in the locker room, because it’s two guys that love playing with one another,” Bradford said. “They both have an unselfishness about them. Whoever gets the assist or the goal, as long as it’s good for the group.”
The team as whole was able to record a clean sheet with goalkeeper Tor Saunders making his first USL League One appearance after replacing injured Nicholas Holliday. Bradford believes his team defended quite well as a group.
“I didn’t think that they broke us down terribly bad in any way,” Bradford said. “You know, so I felt the group you know, collective defending, and that’s something we’ve been harping on from the front all the way to the back. So really proud of the guys and obviously for Tor to step in and get his first start with us this year and get a clean sheet.”
North Carolina FC forward Oalex Anderson spoke about the partnership between himself and Garrett McLaughlin and the enjoyment he feels playing with the player.
“I really, I really do,” Anderson said. “The guy is a baller. I mean all last season he connected with me well. Coming to this season, I know we started off slowly because it’s been hard for both of us being on the field at the same time. I am glad that we can continue that connection.”
Anderson also spoke about the two goals he scored and the importance of winning an in-state derby match.
“It’s good to put two on them tonight,” Anderson said. “It gives us the goal differential this season. So it’s really good. I’ve scored two goals already against Charlotte this season and this game gave us three points and top of the table.”
Dakwa holds a BS in Journalism from Elon University. He writes about North Carolina professional soccer for L.A. Soccer Press. Follow him at @JDakwa on Twitter.