What's in a name? NCFC, Armada battle to 2-2 draw
Posted August 12
After the Carolina RailHawks bid adieu in the wake of a rebrand to North Carolina FC, the Cary-based soccer club was left without a team nickname. Club owner Steve Malik told the Inverted Triangle Soccer Podcast that while he had a personal preference for a new moniker, he will leave that process to the province of the team’s supporters.
The lurching search for a new sobriquet has since proven fruitless. Across fan blogs and social media platforms, suggestions include all manner of flora and fauna, inanimate objects, mythical creatures and even the color blue. Another popular reservoir is North Carolina’s official state symbols. To date, nothing has caught on.
So, let’s audition a few candidates ... After going down two goals in the opening 17 minutes, North Carolina FC steamed ahead Saturday evening, powered by goals from Dre Fortune and Lance Laing. Ultimately, the NC Shad Boats battled the Jacksonville Armada to a 2-2 draw.
Jacksonville jumped out to a lead in just the 3rd minute. Erstwhile née Hawk Brian Shriver dispossessed James Marcelin, leaving the Armada’s Zach Steinberger to gather the loose ball in the center circle and play it out to Tony Taylor on the left wing. With debut right back D.J. Taylor pushed upfield, a seemingly benign buildup snowballed into Tony Taylor spinning center back Brad Ruhaak as if a Gray Squirrel, then threading a shot between Connor Tobin and goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre for a 1-0 advantage.
The Armada doubled their scoreline in the 17th minute after Ruhaak was whistled for a penalty for taking down Tony Taylor. Video replay strongly suggests that not only did Taylor topple easy, but any contact began outside the area. Notwithstanding, midfielder Jack Blake buried the ensuing kick from the penalty spot, leaving the home side singing the Blues.
Meanwhile, left winger Lance Laing galloped like a Colonial Spanish Mustang up the left flank throughout the first half, sending six crosses into the area that all went wanting.
After playing Opossum for much of the first half, the Plott Hounds finally sniffed out a goal in the waning moments of the opening stanza. Nazmi Albadawi sent a bounding cross that found Armada defender Mechack Jerome’s heavy right boot. It was Marcelin’s turn to leap on a stray sphere, laying it over to Fortune, who took a touch before depositing his 19-yard curler into the postage stamp for a 2-1 score at intermission. The 20-year-old Fortune has lately blossomed like a Flowering Dogwood, earning consecutive starts and now netting two goals this season.
“It’s a completely different game if North Carolina doesn’t score in the 44th minute,” said Armada manager Mark Lowery said. “Conceding a goal at that moment in time obviously swings the momentum going into the break, and then there’s a whole different feel to the second half.”
North Carolina sank their Megalodon teeth into the second stanza, buzzing around the attacking third like Western honey bees. The equalizer finally came in the 68th minute. Another Fortune rocket was tipped by Armada keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell and ricocheted off the crossbar. Laing caught the carom and volleyed an angled shot into the far netting for his team-leading seventh goal.
The Carolina Cardinals nearly swooped in for the game-winner in added time. Yet another Fortune blast met a Jacksonville defender’s face, whereupon Albadawi yanked his short-range rebound shot wide left.
North Carolina FC manager Colin Clarke found Saturday’s result decidedly bittersweet, still rueing the snail-like start of his Scotch bonnets.
“If you take away the first ten minutes, we were exceptionally good,” Clarke said. “But you can’t do that, so we’re still answerable for those poor goals we give up to start the game. But our reaction was very, very good. With a little bit more luck and some better finishing towards the end, we could have gotten all three points.”
After the match, the every-garrulous Lowery spoke at length on a couple of topics. First, he expounded on the midseason trade that sent Shriver from NCFC to Jacksonville in exchange for attackers Jonathan Glenn and Danny Barrow.
“We were speaking about it for a while with Colin [Clarke],” Lowery said. “It just wasn’t clicking with Jonathan Glenn, whether it was a style thing or settling thing … Danny is a young player who needs to play and he wasn’t getting time. So we spoke to Colin and it was something that appealed to him, I think, two players who probably suited his system better … For us, it was getting someone like Brian Shriver who has a good reputation around the league. A couple of guys in our locker room, like Drew Beckie and others who have played with him before, said he’s a fantastic guy. He’s scored goals at this level, he’s a worker, he gives a hundred percent when he’s on the field, and that’s the kind of guy we needed.”
Many opposing coaches over the past decade have commented on the difficulty of playing the RailHawks/NCFC at WakeMed Soccer Park. Lowery expanded on his particular reasoning for holding that same opinion.
“In my opinion, this is the hardest place in the league to come, the way North Carolina plays at home,” Lowery explained. “It’s actually quite palpable when you’re out there. I don’t know if it’s the layout of the stadium or the amount of people in the stadium, but it gets bouncing at time, it gets rocking, particularly after a North Carolina goal or a good attack. You can feel the energy inside the stadium start to build up, and I know that has a massive effect on players … There’s a different feel to the place. Even if you go other places, and even though you’re away from home, it doesn’t feel like you’re in this cauldon … It makes the away team feel like they’re against 12 people, 13 people, 14 people. That’s what the crowd does.”
The Carolina Pines (7-5-7, 26 pts.) remain rooted in Cary for their next match on Tuesday, August 15 against Miami FC, winners of the NASL’s spring season. In fact, three of North Carolina’s next four games are at WakeMed Soccer Park. Miami has yet to topple the Oaks in four games this year, and Clarke expects that run of fortune to continue this Tuesday.
“[Miami] plays a certain way, and I don’t think they’re going to change,” Clarke said. “I’d be very surprised if they did. They’re set in the ways they play, and we’ll set up against them like we’ve done. That doesn’t mean we’ll be successful; it’s going to be a hard match and they’re a very good team. We’ve got to work hard to earn the three points again … They’re looking to come in here and beat us, and we’re not going to let that happen.”
NCFC: Sylvestre, Black, Tobin, Ruhaak, Taylor (Moses, 65’), Marcelin, Fortune, Laing (Molano, 85’), Shipalane, Albadawi, Fondy (Schuler, 55’)
JAX: Patterson-Sewell, Jerome, Ryden, Fisher (Beckie, 75’), Pitchkolan, Blake, George, Steinberger, Banks (Eloundou, 67’), Taylor, Shriver (Gebhard, 69’)
NCFC: Fortune, 45’ (Marcelin); Laing, 69’
JAX: Taylor, 3’ (Steinberger), Blake, 18’ (P)
NCFC: Fortune, 26’
JAX: George, 28’, Blake, 90’