Making his first start since May 22, Robbie Kristo had himself a day against the Richmond Kickers, scoring twice in the first half to lead North Carolina FC to a 4-0 victory on Wednesday, July 21.
Due to a lingering injury, Kristo had only seen limited minutes after the first few games of the season, but marked his return to the starting XI with an excellent performance. In addition to his two goals, Kristo provided a physical presence at the head of NCFC attack and was a good outlet for NCFC to escape pressure.
“With Robbie, we expect there to be output,” said NCFC head coach John Bradford. “We expect there to be goals. We expect there to be opportunities to knock down the ball and guys to get second balls and obviously he was a huge piece of how we played tonight… When we were putting the team together we were going to count on Robbie for sure, to be able to score goals. It's nice to have him healthy and fit and be able to get his first start in nine games or eight games, whatever it's been.”
Kristo started his stellar first half with a great header in the 19th minute. Nelson Flores-Blanco put in a cross to Kristo at the back post and the towering forward headed the ball back across goal and into the side netting.
Kristo followed up his first goal with a SportsCenter Top 10 contender in the 41st minute. While holding a defender off, Kristo chested the ball up into the air and fired off a volley, chipping the keeper from the midfield circle.
“I was talking to Nazmi Albadawi earlier in the game and he’d said that the keeper was out…,” Kristo said. “I’d asked for the ball so I could turn and shoot, and when I saw him out of his net I just sent it. I was shocked that it hit the goal, to be honest, but I’ll take it.”
NCFC didn’t wait long to extend its lead in the second half, as Josh Coan scored his first goal of the season in the 48th minute. Jay Tee Kamara played the ball out wide to Coan on the counter attack and Coan cut in before shooting across his body and finding the bottom corner. The assist was Kamara’s fifth of the season, three more than any other NCFC player.
Richmond had some dangerous chances to score in the second half, but the NCFC controlled the flow of the game. Early in stoppage time, and just seconds before he was subbed off, Coan added a second goal of his own to make it 4-0. Coan picked the ball off the defender and curled it in from the top of the box.
Following a short turnaround from the loss on Sunday, Bradford made four changes to his starting lineup with Kristo, Peter Pearson, Selmir Miscic and Coan coming in for Thorn Simpson, Malick Mbaye, Malyk Hamilton and the suspended Pecka.
The result and performance were exactly what NCFC needed in order to bounce back from the disappointment of Sunday’s loss.
“It’s massive,” Bradford said. “Now we've got a little bit of a break to get everybody healthy and recuperated, but we've been saying it for a while, it's going to take some consistent performances and it's going to take one real performance. In terms of the stuff we’ve been saying, we’ve got to show ourselves we can score goals and keep clean sheets. That we could be the aggressor throughout the evening.”
After an extremely poor start to the season, NCFC has shown a lot of improvement in recent games, taking eight points from the last five games.
“I'm extremely excited for the guys in the locker room to finally get what they deserve and what they put the effort into,” Bradford said. “We've had stuff not go our way or injuries that they can't control, guys not available or not play well, but for them to put together a complete performance tonight, and get three points, shut out, multiple goals, excited for them.”
NCFC will be back in action on Sunday, August 1, hitting the road to take on Fort Lauderdale CF.