NCFC midfielder Peter Pearson attempts to steal possession of the ball during the game versus Toronto FC II on Sunday, July 18, 2021 in Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. NCFC lost to Toronto FC II 4-2.

In its second to last game of the 2021 USL League One season, North Carolina FC bested 10-man South Georgia Tormenta FC on Saturday, Oct. 23.

A tightly contested and increasingly contentious first half came to a head in stoppage time when Tormenta’s Raheem Somersall was given his marching orders after being shown his second yellow card of the match.

While both Somersall and an NCFC player were receiving treatment following the incident, NCFC head coach John Bradford, Tormenta head coach Ian Cameron and the fourth official exchanged a few words on the sideline.

“I would assume their coach just doesn't want to have the penalty of having a guy sent off,” Bradford said. “The rationale is that that's his second foul and the rationale is that you can't give two yellow cards in one half, that just makes zero sense. And if it's a clear yellow card on each one, if it's me, I'm pissed off at my player not at the referee, because they were both clear yellow cards and there was no question about it.”

Bradford went on to say that he felt the referee called the game without emotion and got it right, saying that hasn’t always been the case this season.

The halftime break did little to cool things off as the hard tackles and overall physicality of the game continued to build in the second half. NCFC forward Aziel Jackson experienced the bulk of the physicality, constantly being thrown to the ground and having his legs kicked out from under him.

“Everybody that's here has certain areas of their game that they need to develop,” Bradford said. “For AZ, obviously when he gets the ball in his feet, he likes to go at guys. That's the fun stuff. The part he had to do tonight was the dirty work of being back to goal, having to hold up balls, take hits, take fouls and be mature about it. Nobody likes that but for him, it was what the game was asking for.”

NCFC was able to capitalize on its man advantage in the 48th minute and grabbed the first and only goal of the game, a long-range strike from midfielder Peter Pearson.

Pearson’s goal came as part of a flurry of early second-half chances from NCFC, who came out of the break with a visible sense of determination.

“The main thing was, you have to earn what's gonna happen,” Bradford said. “If it's going to be zeros and they're down a man, we could simply get a tie, we could concede one whatever. But you have to just carve out and really put everything you can on the line to earn the win. So I think the group already felt that way coming into it, like they have all year, but for them to get three points was great.”

As has often been the case throughout the season, NCFC’s young core matured on the field as the game went on and there is no better example of that than Cole Frame’s late-game management. 

Up one and with time quickly running out, Frame had two chances to run some additional time off the clock by taking the ball to the corner but instead opted to go for the insurance goal. The third time around, Frame made the smart play and held onto possession helping NCFC see out its seventh win of the season.

“He'd be the first one to tell you he might have screwed up on the two previous plays before the last one, going into the corner,” Bradford said. “But Cole is a smart kid and for him to recognize, ‘Okay the game is telling me this and this is where we need to go,’ and all that, I think that he was able to quickly do that.”

With the young guys gaining valuable pro-level experience, the team was able to see out a game that it easily could have drawn earlier in the season.

“The whole group is maturing in every step of the game,” Bradford said. “For them to come out and get a shutout is probably something that three or four months ago, we somehow find a way to concede a goal and it's just the draw and we have a different feeling about it, but a good complete performance from the group.”

NCFC will wrap up its first season in USL League One on Saturday, Oct. 30 as it hosts Greenville Triumph SC at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Sports Editor

I'm Nicholas Schnittker, one of the two assistant sports editors for Technician. I'm in the class of 2022 and am currently majoring in communication and minoring in journalism. I have been at Technician since August 2018 and an editor since May 2019.