Both Teams Earn a Point in The First Installment of The “Dogwood Derby”
By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press
North Carolina FC drew 1-1 with Charlotte Independence at WakeMed Soccer Park on a rainy Saturday night, for the first edition of “Dogwood Derby”, the newly minted name for the matchup between the in-state rivals. A first half goal from North Carolina FC’s Oalex Anderson and a second half goal from Charlotte Independence forward Dane Kelly left both teams to settle for a point each.
Dane Kelly took an attempt at goal early in the match during the 5th minute that barely sailed over the crossbar.
In the 26th minute, North Carolina FC goalkeeper Nicholas Holliday produced a quick reaction save after Tresor Mbuyu took a shot at the near post.
North Carolina FC forward Oalex Anderson opened the scoring in the 32nd minute after he was able to tap into a gaping net from close range. There was a deflection from Jaden Servania’s shot on the edge of the area that landed right in front of Anderson. This marks Anderson’s first goal of the USL League One season, after the seven he totaled in the 2022 season.
North Carolina FC went into the halftime break with a one goal advantage after Anderson’s first half goal made the difference between both sides.
Charlotte Independence goalkeeper Austin Pack produced a diving save in the 51st minute after North Carolina FC midfielder Louis Perez’s shot deflected and skipped in front of Pack on a rainy night at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Charlotte Independence winger Gabriel Obertan hit a shot in the 61st minute that fell into the path of teammate Dane Kelly. Kelly was able to redirect the ball towards goal and send the ball past Holliday to equalize the match. The goal marked Kelly’s first goal this season, and his first goal in his third stint at the club since returning on March 2nd, 2023.
In the 77th minute, North Carolina FC winger Rafa Mentzingen was able to combine with substitute Garrett McLaughlin in the box and hit a shot with the outside of the right boot. His shot trickled towards the far post, but was saved by Austin Pack who dove to his right to produce a save.
Mentzingen took a free kick deep into stoppage time during the 98th minute and was able to get his effort on target. Pack was able to get down to parry the ball away for a corner, but nothing came of the corner that was taken.
With the match ending in a draw, Charlotte Independence still kept their place at the top of the table, having played more matches than some of the teams in the table.
North Carolina FC head coach John Bradford believes the team fought hard in a tightly contested rivalry match.
“I thought it was a battle, for sure,” Bradford said. “All of the build up with the rivalry certainly played itself out over the 90-plus minutes. Disappointed to not get a win, but I thought the guys fought hard.”
Bradford was left impressed with how his team possessed the ball and their build-up play throughout the pitch.
“In all honesty, I thought there was some excellent football between the build-up, the middle third, and up into the final third,” Bradford said. “Where we need to improve, here in the early stage of the season, is getting a cross or a shot off every time that we do that and not just being satisfied to keep possession higher up the field. I was pleased with the tactical plan that we set out tonight to create chances. The last couple of games we have put ourselves in front of goal, but not been able to execute.”
North Carolina FC Oalex Anderson was able to pounce on one of those chances after Jaden Servania’s shot deflected. Anderson spoke about notching his first goal of the USL League One season.
“Knowing the conditions of the game, we expected any shot towards goal to have follow-up opportunities,” Anderson said. “So, I went in looking for that and was lucky enough to be in position and was able to score.”
North Carolina FC captain Daniel Navarro believes the team were unable to sustain the momentum they started the match with, but were able to find that momentum again after conceding a goal in the second half. Navarro wants to take that “lesson” into upcoming matches.
“I think we started well, but after we scored we kind of relaxed a bit,” Navarro said. “We dropped too much, we let them play and gave them confidence. Once they got the goal, we started to play again. In general, we did well. But, we have to take that lesson to keep playing hard, even with a lead, we need to control the game and then, maybe, relax after a full ninety minutes.”
North Carolina FC will return to action in USL League One play when the team takes on Union Omaha on Saturday, April 15th at 3 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.