The busy offseason for North Carolina FC has continued in the weeks following Christmas with the club re-signing right back DJ Taylor and goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, two of its best defensive players from last season.
The team’s Defensive Player of the Year, Taylor locked down the right back position all season, leading the team in minutes with 3,123. A versatile outside back, Taylor led all defenders in chances created with 33, led the team in tackles and was second in interceptions.
“We’re very pleased to have DJ returning to us,” said head coach Dave Sarachan in a press release. “He amassed the most minutes of anybody on our team, which tells you a lot about him – not only from a soccer sense but from a physical sense in terms of how he prepares and takes care of himself. DJ showed a lot of progress in terms of being more aggressive getting forward and understanding the relationships he’s built with other defenders on our backline. He’s becoming more of a complete player.”
The announcement of Tambakis’s return is an exciting one for the club as the goalkeeper is coming off of a brilliant 2019 season. Last year, Tambakis made 96 saves, sixth in the league, with a save percentage of 75.21. With nine USL Championship Save of the Month awards to his name since joining NCFC, Tambakis has the ability to pull out some truly show-stopping saves.
“One of our top priorities was to secure Alex for another season with us,” Sarachan said in another press release. “I strongly believe he’s as good as any goalkeeper in the USL Championship. He was a mainstay for us, making important saves and continuing to grow as a player. When you get a guy like Alex in goal for you, it’s a great starting point as we continue to grow our roster.”
In addition to the two key re-signings, NCFC also strengthened its midfield and attack with the singings of Brazilian midfielder Wellington “Pecka” Paeckart and playmaker Guinea international Hadji Barry. In addition to the two roster additions, NCFC also added another assistant coach in Mike McGinty.
Pecka’s ability to both break up play in the midfield and distribute the ball will be crucial in freeing up NCFC’s other midfielder playmakers like Nazmi Albadawi and Ben Speas, both of whom are already confirmed for the 2020 season. An experienced player, the 30-year old midfield has played at a number of levels in American soccer including the MLS.
“We were looking to bring in a veteran who can play in the midfield with a good soccer IQ and the ability to break up plays,” Sarachan said in a press release in December. “Pecka has a tremendous background in those categories, and he was also a captain in San Antonio. He’s very familiar with USL and the kind of soccer we want to play.”
Barry, another former MLS SuperDraft first-round pick and player with MLS experience, finished last season with Ottawa. After his return to the league following a stint in Israel, Barry scored six goals in just over 1,200 minutes played.
“Having seen Hadji and gotten to know him as a player, the things that stand out to me is that he has a good soccer mind and very good feet for a big guy – both left and right foot,” Sarachan said in a press release. “He’s a guy who has a variety of weapons, whether he’s up high or pushed to one side. He has the ability to be creative and use others with him. He provides a lot of variety as an attacking player.”
McGinty joins as the final member of Sarachan’s coaching staff for the upcoming season. The former Wake Forest goalkeeper and assistant coach brings with him a lengthy resume of coaching experience at the college level, including Wake Forest, St. Louis and Virginia, the latter both as an assistant and a goalkeeper coach.
“When you look at Mike’s resume, he’s a guy who’s accumulated a lot of good experience as a head coach and an assistant coach,” Sarachan said in a press release. “Mike is a dedicated hard worker who’s very good at his craft and spends a lot of time studying the game. He’s a guy who is a valuable asset to our staff with his experience.”
One member of NCFC’s current roster is already very familiar with McGinty, forward Robbie Kristo led McGinty’s St. Louis in scoring between 2011-14. While at the helm of St. Louis, McGinty had a record of 81-56-14. He was also named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year three times.
“I know the club and what it’s done over the years,” McGinty said of NCFC in a press release. “The people at the club were most important to me. Curt [Johnson] is someone I’ve known for a number of years, and I’ve known Dave Sarachan for a number of years. There was a real comfort level with the people leading the group, and for me and my family, it was too good to pass up. It’s a club that does things the right way with the right people.”
In addition to the new signings, NCFC also announced its full schedule for the 2020 season, which can be seen below. Kicking off on March 7 at home against Louisville City FC, the 34-game regular season will conclude on October 17 when NCFC travels to Louisville City FC.
The club also announced prior to the schedule being released that two of its matches will be televised on national TV. The first of the two matches will be the April 3 home game against Charlotte Independence, televised on ESPNDeportes, and the second will be the final home game of the season on Oct. 2 against the Charleston Battery, which will be broadcasted on ESPNews.
With just under two months left to go until the start of the season, NCFC still has a lot of business to conduct this offseason, but the recent re-signings and new signings should have fans excited for the 2020 season.