After a pair of defensive breakdowns left North Carolina FC down by two going into the break and a pair of second-half goals brought things level, NCFC found itself in an eerily familiar position against Memphis 901 FC on Sunday evening.
On Thursday, NCFC lost to Memphis in the dying seconds after a two-goal comeback in the 90th minute was thwarted by a Memphis goal deep in added time. On Sunday, however, NCFC didn’t leave things nearly as late and instead of letting a point slip through its fingers, NCFC found the winning goal with club captain and former NC State midfielder Nazmi Albadawi scoring a beautifully timed strike from the top of the box.
“Not much because we went down 2-0 again,” NCFC head coach Dave Sarachan said about the difference between Thursday and tonight. “They came out with good energy. We did not have a great start to the game, in terms of trying to break their pressure.”
Out of the break, Sarachan turned to his bench looking for a spark, and he found it. Dre Fortune and Robert Kristo began the second half in place of Pecka and Marios Lomis, and the two made an almost immediate impact
“We made two changes, so we talked about that and I just put it on them,” Sarachan said. “If all the talk of us being a good team is real then we will come out and compete in the second half and give it our best shot. Otherwise, if you are just going to keep your heads down then we won't get back into it.”
Fortune put in the corner that led to former NC State defender Conor Donovan poking a loose ball home from the edge of the six and just three minutes later, Kristo played the ball across goal to Hadji Barry for the game-tying goal.
NCFC looked like a completely different team after the goal. In the first half, the frustration was evident on the field and there was a clear lack of rhythm between teammates. Players were arguing and Tambakis had a less than pleasant chat with Memphis’s Zach Carroll that led to the Memphis man being shown a yellow.
With just five games left on its schedule and currently sitting eight points back of second place, every game from here on out for NCFC is a crucial one and a win like Sunday’s could be exactly the boost the team needs to make that late playoff push.
“If I’m a player coming off the field I am feeling good that we won,” Sarachan said. “We know there is more ahead but confidence will grow when you get a result and tonight, we got the result. I hope it translates.”
NCFC’s next game will be on Saturday, Sept. 19 at home against the Charlotte Independence in what will be a doubleheader at WakeMed Soccer Park as the NC Courage hosts the Orlando Pride earlier in the day.