Neil Morris

One if by land: North Carolina FC defeats NASL-leading Miami FC, 1-0

Posted July 4
Updated July 5

— In April 1775, the mighty British Army marched on the towns of Concord, Massachusetts, intending to capture and destroy Colonial military supplies. Afterwards, rebel militiamen counterattacked, forcing the British regulars to retreat back to Boston. Thus began the Revolutionary War.

Tonight, the mighty Miami FC came to WakeMed Soccer Park for an Independence Day tilt, riding an ongoing quarterfinals run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and poised to clinch the NASL’s spring season title with a win over the North Carolina FC.

Instead, the NCFC insurgents withstood a Miami surge, then struck back in the 65th minute with a sure shot by Billy Schuler to claim a 1-0 victory and send the Miami regulars back to Florida to find further glory.

Matters began auspiciously for the home side in the 12th minute, when an apparent Paul Black own goal in favor of Miami FC was waived off because Miami’s Hunter Freeman, stationed far post behind Black, was in an offside position when Calvin Rezende delivered the initial cross.

North Carolina’s Billy Schuler nearly scored in the 40th minute with a great drive and fire, but saw his shot skim off the base of the left post. But Schuler got his goal in the 65th minute. Jose Carranza, already impressing throughout his first professional start, slipped a through ball that split Miami’s defenders and found a streaking Schluer. The NCFC striker one-touched past Miami goalkeeper Daniel Vega for the 1-0 game-winner. It’s Schuler’s second goal in league play and his fifth in all competitions.

“I saw James [Marcelin] give the ball to Lance [Laing],” Carranza said. “I was open, Lance saw me, and I just opened by hips and I saw Billy [Schuler] make that great run. He stayed onside, and I just slipped it in.”

Both finishers to the NCFC goal were out of the game by the 73rd minute, Schuler with a hamstring injury and Carranza with twisted ankle. But the NCFC lead held, ending Miami’s ten-match unbeaten streak in league play and North Carolina FC’s five-game winless skid. It’s also Miami’s first road loss this year.

The loss also delays Miami’s NASL spring title coronation. Miam, which has remained atop the league table since the season start, now leads the San Francisco Deltas by four points, with Miami and San Francisco ending their spring seasons with a home-and-home series against each other.

For North Carolina FC manager Colin Clarke, the most pleasing element of the match was that his squad kept a clean sheet, their first since the season opener against, coincidentally, Miami FC. In fact, while Miami has run roughshod over the rest of the NASL this year, they have yet to defeat to NCFC in three attempts, drawing twice and now losing.

After tonight’s game, Miami FC manager Alessandro Nesta expressed his admiration for North Carolina FC’s talented roster, specifically citing Laing, Marcelin, Nazmi Albadawi, and Connor Tobin.

“They have good players,” Nesta said about NCFC. “If you don’t play 100 percent, they can score every time.”

That said, Miami was playing without key contributors Poku (red card suspension) and Dylan Mares (injury). It has also lately played a congested schedule, between the regular season and their Open Cup run. Still, Nesta wasn’t allowing any excuses.

“This month we’ve spent a lot of energy,” Nesta said. “We’ve played U.S. Open Cup and very hard games. Tonight, we weren’t the same team like the last 5-7 matches … But, I have other very good players. It’s not an excuse … If Poku had been here tonight, for me, maybe the same score.”

It’s a sentiment Clarke was eager to echo.

“They have enough depth to cope with all of that,” Clarke said with a wry smile. “We’ve had enough injuries this year, so I’m not giving them that one. They’re a good team. You have guys like Michel sitting on the bench.”

Soccer is often a battle of matchups, and Clarke said Miami’s style of play fits the way NCFC wants to play.

“I think we get after them in good areas,” Clarke said. “They play with a diamond midfield, so their weak spots are wide and we have some good players there with the likes of Lance [Laing], Tiyi [Shipalane], and obviously tonight with Jose [Carranza]. So we have the ability to give them problems and get at them. I thought we did a good job with that tonight.”

The 18-year-old Carranza has been training with the first-team this week, but he didn’t know for certain until today that he would earn his first professional start.

“I thought he struggled a little in the first half to find his feet and find his way,” Clarke continued. “He got into some great spots and found the ball, but his final pass wasn’t great. I thought he started the second half very, very well. He was positive, got at people … Every time he got it, you could feel that little bit of buzz and the crowd and players on the field lift. He’s a young kid with great belief and ability, and it’s fun to watch.”

“We all gave 100 percent to beat Miami,” Carranza said. “Miami’s a great team, and it feels great. I hope I can keep providing for the team and we can keep getting wins.”

North Carolina FC (5-3-6, 18 pts.) awaits a quick trip to Alberta, where they face FC Edmonton this Friday, July 7. North Carolina returns to Cary on Saturday, July 15 to conclude their NASL spring season against Puerto Rico FC.

“If not about anybody else, it’s about us right now,” Clarke said. “We have two winnable games coming up, even though it’s a quick turnaround. We’re looking to get maximum points, have a little bit of a break, then get back at it and see if we can win the fall season.

“The game is all about results, and we haven’t been on a good run as of late since the Open Cup. The boys know what it’s all about, they’ve been putting in the work. Sometimes you might need that little bit of luck, and maybe we got it tonight.”

Sylvestre, Black, Tobin, Ibeagha, Ruhaak, Marcelin, da Luz, Albadawi, Carranza (Fortune, 73’), Laing (Akinyode, 85’), Schuler (Fondy, 72’)
MIA: Vega, Bernstein (Borrajo, 41’), Trafford, Freeman, Lahoud, B. Smith, Rezende (Michel, 83’), Ryan, Martinez (Chavez, 70’), Pinho, Rennella

Schuler, 65’ (Carranza)
MIA: ---

Marcelin, 34’
MIA: Rezende, 50’; Lahoud, 67’

MIA: ---



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