North Carolina FC opened its USL League One season against Greenville Triumph SC, performing well but ultimately falling 2-1 to the 2020 USL League One title-winners.
NCFC’s young group showed some nerves early in its first time playing together, but managed to settle into the game well.
“It was great to actually get the first game played and under our belt and playing here in the home stadium all that,” said NCFC head coach John Bradford. “As far as the way it went, I think I sensed some nerves in our group a little bit early. You know, and kind of settled in, after the PK that we gave up and then showed some character to be able to get a goal pretty soon thereafter.”
A back-and-forth first half started out with a bang as each team scored in the opening 15 minutes. Despite quite a few more chances for each team, neither was able to find the back of the net again in the first half.
Former NCFC forward Marios Lomis gave the visitors an early lead, converting from the penalty spot in the 10th minute, but the lead did not last long as Selmir Miscic brought NCFC level just five minutes later.
Miscic got on the end of a Josh Coan cross-field pass and brought it under control inside the box before using some stepovers to open up enough space to get the shot away.
“One thing we've kind of harped on was me making those runs in behind and making the diagonal runs,” Miscic said. “When Jay Tee [Kamara] gets on a ball, or Josh gets on a ball, I'm always looking to go. Once Josh picked his head up, I knew to start running and it was a great ball from him. I just settled it and then I took the one-v-one, where I’m very confident, and then cut on my right foot and was able to score.”
Greenville retook the lead in the 65th minute thanks to a glancing header from Lachlan McClean. The shot just barely snuck in off the far post, giving Jake McGuire no chance to make a save on it. Despite giving up two goals, McGuire had a solid night in net.
While Miscic impressed with his quick feet and eye for goal, midfielder Jay Tee Kamara and defender Max Flick also impressed for different reasons. Kamara, currently on loan from Louisville City FC, showed a lot of quickness in the heart of midfield and was constantly carrying the ball forward to connect NCFC’s attack to the rest of the team. Flick was solid at the back, making a few very crucial tackles and deflections in and around the box.
“That's Jay Tee, he kind of is everywhere...” Bradford said. “He can beat people off the dribble, he's dynamic, he’ll go in at goal. I think for JT, it's just kind of getting the experience of understanding when and where the right moment is to try and do what it can be. And for me as a coach, it's gonna be exciting to allow him that creativity in the moments to try to get on the ball and do different things.”
NCFC’s first 18-man squad of the season, with an average age of just 20, really set the tone for exactly what the club’s move to USL League One is all about, focusing on youth development.
“We're a young group,” Miscic said. “We haven't had a ton of games together. But with every game, I think we're growing, and I think we're getting better. As you saw in the end, we had chances. We never quit and we were into it until the last second of the game.”
NCFC will be back in action on May 15 for the team’s first road game of the season, traveling to Wisconsin to take on Forward Madison FC.