CARY, N.C. – North Carolina FC put together an impressive second-half display to take a 4-1 victory against defending USL Cup champion Louisville City FC at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday. Here are three takeaways:
1. OPENING STATEMENT: There weren’t many outside those within North Carolina FC’s organization who would have seen this result coming. However, in its first outing under new Head Coach Dave Sarachan there was a clear line drawn under the disappointment of missing the USL Cup Playoffs in 2018 and a statement that NCFC was going to be a contender this year. It certainly wasn’t smooth sailing the entire way, but after Marios Lomis’ opening goal seemed to settle the hosts on its first shot on goal late in the first half, NCFC came out flying after the break to all but put the three points in the bag within the first 10 minutes. As my colleague John Arlia wrote back in January, Sarachan looked like a perfect fit for his new club. Saturday started to back up that sentiment.
2. DON’T PANIC, YET: If anyone looked likely to score in the opening half it was LouCity, which outshot its hosts 6-1 before Lomis’ tally put North Carolina ahead. Head Coach John Hackworth’s side looked to have slipped back into the groove in its passing and movement but was unable to produce a crucial opening goal. That ended up being key to the game, and the theme for Louisville’s attack all day as it recorded 21 shots overall but only forced only one save from NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis as the host defense swarmed well to block seven shots before Sunny Jane’s consolation finish in stoppage time. The attacking output overall means there will be some positives to take from this game for the visitors, but that won’t make the trip home any less disappointing.
3. MAGIC MARIOS: It can sometimes take creating something out of nothing to create the spark a side needs to find itself. That was exactly what North Carolina got from its Dutch forward Marios Lomis with a first-half finish that put the hosts ahead at halftime after being under pressure for most of the opening 45 minutes. Lomis didn’t seem to have much to work with as the defense converged upon him in the 34th minute, but his patience to drift inside until the lane to shoot home opened was exemplary. The 24-year-old scored five goals a season ago, all from within the penalty area. His first long-range tally showed off something new and gave NCFC a timely boost toward victory.