RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Making their first start in USL League One the North Carolina FC checked off the goals of playing exciting soccer with passion and speed.
But the team fell short when it came to goals on the scoreboard, losing their opener 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
“We are a relentless group and truly believe we can beat anyone. We were unlucky by the end results but it’s a good start,” said NCFC midfielder Selmir Miscic. “As disappointed as we are, we can take a lot of positives from tonight and bounce back.”
Aggressive throughout the game, it was North Carolina’s aggression that led to the first score of the contest. Called for a foul inside the penalty box, former NCFC player Marios Lomis did the honors driving home the penalty kick for the 1-0 lead.
North Carolina answered the score within minutes.
Josh Coan found Miscic on a field switching diagonal pass. Miscic put on a pair of ball fakes that got it back on his right foot and cleared enough space for him to bury it in the back of the net and tie the game at 1.
“Winger is the position I love to play. With John, I’ve been able to come back into that position. One thing we have harped on is me making runs behind, and receiving diagonal balls,” said Miscic. “Once Josh put his head up I just started running and it was a good ball from him. I just settled it and took it … and was able to score.”
The defending champion Greenville Triumph kept the pressure on the entire game. NCFC captain Jake McGuire did an outstanding job holding them at bay and protecting pole to pole, making some great diving saves.
“He got scored on by a PK and a header that dinged off the post and went in, so beyond that he kept us in the game in all moments,” said NCFC head coach John Bradford. “He has been great for us. Bringing him in has been a big boost to the group and I think he is going to have a great season.”
The Triumph took the lead in the second half when Jesus Ibarra sent a shot across the middle to a waiting Lachlan McLean. He caught just enough of it with his forehead to redirect it off the far post and go in for the lead.
Despite a tremendous effort and a flurry of chances from point-blank range, North Carolina was unable to convert. It’s not the outcome they wanted but not a bad first game from a bunch of guys that haven’t played with each other all that much.
“I sensed some nerves from our young group pretty early and after we went down a goal we settled in and it showed a lot of character how we bounced back,” said Bradford. “Everything we have been working on in terms of trying to keep possession. But what a great opponent tonight for us to be able to test ourselves. A lot of positives from the game tonight.”
North Carolina FC will hit the road to face off against Forward Madison FC on Saturday, May 15 at 8 p.m. ET at Breese Stevens Field in Madison, Wisconsin.