NCFC Beats Chattanooga Red Wolves For The First Time In Club History
By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press
North Carolina FC picked up a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Chattanooga Red Wolves on a Friday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park. A first half goal from Oalex Anderson and a brace from Rafa Mentzingen sealed three points to momentarily take North Carolina FC to the top of the table.
North Carolina FC was able to put together some incisive combination and attacking play during the early stages of the match in the final third.
North Carolina FC nearly opened the scoring in the 35th minute Oalex Anderson was played through on goal. The offside flag stayed down after midfielder Mikey Maldonado sent a through ball. Anderson was eventually left one-on-one with Chattanooga Red Wolves goalkeeper Carlos Avilez. Anderson directed his shot towards goal and Avilez was able to close down the angle to produce a save from close range.
Mentzingen almost found the back of the net only a minute later. Mentzingen was able to combine with Louis Perez and the ball popped up to Mentzingen in the box. Mentzingen hit a strike on the half volley that went just wide of the far post.
Mikey Maldonaldo played Oalex Anderson through on goal once again in the 45th minute. Anderson found himself one-on-one once again and this time he did not miss the target. Anderson’s attempt on goal slipped through the legs of Avilez and put North Carolina FC up a goal.
On the brink of stoppage time heading into halftime break, North Carolina FC center back David Garcia fouled Chattanooga Red Wolves forward Alexander Tejera in the box. Garcia was handed a yellow card and the Red Wolves were awarded a penalty. Chattanooga Red Wolves midfielder Ryley Kraft stepped up to the spot and North Carolina FC goalkeeper Nick Holliday was able to produce a diving save to keep North Carolina FC’s lead heading into halftime.
In the 57th minute, Garcia was able to play a ball over the top into the path of Oalex Anderson. Anderson was able to square the ball across goal to an oncoming Rafa Mentzingen who was able to tap the ball home into an empty net as Avilez had rushed out of the net.
North Carolina FC forward Garrett McLaughlin came on as a substitute in the second half in the 61st minute.
McLaughlin made an impact in the 66th minute when he was able to turn to the outside of a defender and cut the ball back to an oncoming Rafa Mentzingen. Mentzingen coolly finished the ball into the side of the net to extend North Carolina FC’s advantage to three.
Shakeem Adams came onto the pitch for goalscorer Rafa Mentzingen in the 71st minute. Adams and Popp were able to contribute only minutes after coming on. In the 75th minute, Adams crossed the ball into Preston Popp, who made a run at the back post. Popp was nearly able to tap the ball home but his effort nearly missed the target.
North Carolina FC ended the match recording their first ever win over Chattanooga Red Wolves in the club’s history.
North Carolina FC head coach John Bradford believes it was a “good” performance with a lot of chances created, a clean sheet, and a timely penalty save.
“Obviously to get a multi-goal and a shutout all in the same performance was really good,” Bradford said. “We were trying to get our first shutout of the season and I thought the guys dug in the entire 90 plus minutes to make sure that it happened. A lot of chances created, I can’t say enough about the timeliness of Nick Holliday’s save. To be 17-years-old and the only starting goalkeeper that I can think of in a professional league, to make that save was excellent.”
Bradford spoke about his team’s play in the attacking third and the combination play from different attackers.
“I think we have freedom for our players and we have guys that are talented and like to combine with one another in unselfish ways,” Bradford said. “You can see they’re all trying to encourage each other to get shots off and put guys in spaces. There’s a lot of times they can take their own shots and they can make one better for their teammates.”
North Carolina FC left back Nelson Flores mentioned how the chemistry is improving between himself and Rafa Mentzingen and the link-up play the two had.
“Yeah, since Rafa joined the team we became close friends,” Flores said. “We sit really close to each other in the locker room as well, every week we’re getting on the same page. He’s helping me improve and I’m helping him improve. We’re trying to get good performances together at the same time.
Flores was thrilled about the clean sheet due to the team coming close in previous matches.
“We are super happy with the clean sheet because you know, we’ve been close every game,” Flores said. “Nick Holliday coming up big, he’s getting better every weekend. He’s growing more confident. He’s still a young kid and making a save like that, in a crucial moment, is huge for him and for all of us.”
North Carolina FC goalkeeper Nick Holliday spoke about his save to keep his team’s lead going into halftime.
“It was a big moment to keep it at 1-0, so I’m really happy,” Holliday said. “We watch a lot of film, I watched him as a player, so I was prepared and knew where to go when game time came. There was a lot going on in the background that happened to make the save, so super grateful for my coaches.”
North Carolina FC will return to action in USL League One when the team faces Greenville Triumph on Saturday, April 29 at 7 PM ET.
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.