On Friday evening, North Carolina FC took the field for the first time in over 130 days, drawing 2-2 with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in its second game of the USL Championship season and first game since the league was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it was NCFC’s first game of the restart, Tampa Bay had already shaken off its dust the previous weekend with a 2-1 win over Atlanta United II on July 11, and it showed as the Rowdies came out strong, jumping out to a two-goal lead within 25 minutes.
Tampa Bay took the 2-0 lead into the break, but NCFC started the second half looking significantly better than it started the first. In the first 45 NCFC struggled to build out of the back and string a good series of passes together but in the opening minutes of the second 45, it was able to put together some good passages of play and create some chances.
NCFC’s second-half improvement came good in the 56th minute with midfielder Dre Fortune capitalizing on a poor pass out of the back by Tampa Bay. Some good pressure from Caleb Duvernay and Pecka forced a rushed back pass from a Tampa Bay player, allowing Fortune to run onto it and fire it past the onrushing keeper.
Forward Robert Kristo brought things level in the 83rd minute as substitute Nazmi Albadawi combined with Hadji Barry to open up space for D.J. Taylor to get down the line and put a perfect cross into Kristo who pulled away from his defender at the last second to head the ball just out of the Tampa Bay keeper’s reach.
With only 16 total games this season and having already dropped the opener before the break, the point is an important one for NCFC. The next game for NCFC will be on July 29 against Charlotte Independence FC.