NCFC took down Atlanta United 2 by a score of 4-2 on Saturday night in the team’s joint highest scoring game of the season.
Both forward Donovan Ewolo and midfielder Steven Miller scored two first-half goals in what was the team’s highest-scoring first half since it netted five against Atlanta United 2 last September.
“We talked about getting a fast start this week,” NCFC head coach Dave Sarachan said. “We did get a fast start however I guess we didn’t talk enough about the middle part of the game. It is still a work in progress trying to piece together 90 consistent minutes of pass and move and being better with the ball.”
Ewolo opened the scoring in the seventh minute. The ball was headed clear by an Atlanta defender but only as far as midfielder Ben Speas who headed the ball back over the defensive line. Ewolo, who looked offside at first glance, was held on by a trailing defender and with no one around, the forward was able to finish the chance with a hard shot and give NCFC an early lead.
Miller netted two goals in under five minutes to give NCFC an early 3-0 lead. The first goal was assisted by former NC State men’s soccer player Nazmi Albadawi. The second was a beautiful piece of passing play started by Speas, who pinged a beautiful ball across the box to Ewolo on the far post who put the ball across the goal to an open Miller.
While he was not credited with an assist on Miller’s second goal, Speas was the main creator in the play and has been the best creator in the team all season.
“[Speas] is an unbelievable player,” Miller said. “His vision is incredible and what I like about him and respect and envy a little bit is his desire to just take chances. We are very different players.... He takes a lot of chances and maybe four of them don’t come off but five comes off and he gets an assist. You need players like that are willing to take risks and break teams down and try and play balls through and you need other players who are a bit safer and keep the ball a bit more.”
Atlanta pulled one back in the 34th minute through midfielder Will Vint. Vint let loose from outside the box and his shot ricocheted off the knee of NCFC defender Aaron Guillen and flew into the top corner.
The visitors brought it back within one late in the first half on a goal by forward Bienvenue Kanakimana. The forward was put through on goal by defender Wesly Decas and slotted the ball cooly under the rushing NCFC keeper.
“They get a goal on a turnover and it deflects and then we just don’t do well on the second one,” Sarachan said. “Now all the sudden we give them a little life, I thought our response was better, getting the fourth goal but I still there are segments of the game we could be a little cleaner.”
Ewolo restored the two-goal lead just before halftime as Miller played a low cross into the box which the forward got to first, slotting it home from within the six. The goal took the momentum that Atlanta was building away and gave it back in favor of the home side.
“No matter who you play if they are top of the table or bottom of the table in our league as I’m finding you can’t take anything for granted,” Sarachan said. “Momentum is a big deal and getting the fourth and getting a two goal gap took the wind out of their sails a bit.”
The second half of the game was very slow compared to the first. Both teams had a few half chances and NCFC had a chance for a penalty but no one could find the back of the net after the break.
Midfielder Dre Fortune nearly scored in the 84th minute to put the game fully out of Atlanta’s reach but the midfielder’s shot rang off the outside of the post. The shot was the closest either team came to scoring in the second half.
NCFC’s next game will be on Saturday August 3 at 7 p.m. on the road against Indy Eleven who NCFC is currently battling it out with for a leg up in the standings.