CARY, N.C. – North Carolina FC continued its undefeated start to the season as it rallied for a 1-1 draw with Memphis 901 FC on Saturday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. Here are three takeaways from the contest.
ADVANTAGE MISSED: Memphis 901 FC had the chance to pick up a second road victory of the season when it not only took the lead from the penalty spot thanks to Marc Burch’s emphatic finish but also saw NCFC captain Austin da Luz for the foul that led to the opportunity with just under half-an-hour to go, but was unable to hammer home its man-advantage to come away with the points. North Carolina goalkeeper Alex Tambakis had a role to play in that, making good saves twice from Elliott Collier after Memphis had taken the lead and from Adam Najem after NCFC had equalized, but 901 FC will feel disappointed it didn’t come away with more from this one.
MIND GAMES: The decisive moment for the hosts saw NCFC forward Marios Lomis outwit Memphis goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell on a well-struck free kick that put North Carolina back on level terms. With the free kick right of center, and Lomis taking right-footed as the only player over the ball, the Netherlands native anticipated that Caldwell would cheat in behind his defensive wall. When that happened, instead of going to the short, right side as would be conventional, Lomis fired to the top-left corner instead, leaving Caldwell unable to recover in time to keep out the lone shot NCFC mustered after going down to 10 men.
PRECISE PEREZ: After coming in his previous appearances for NCFC as a substitute, United States U-20 international Manny Perez made his first start on the right side for the club on Saturday and put in a sharp display that should allow him to grow into his first professional season. Perez only missed three out of the 30 passes he attempted on the night, registered five recoveries and almost produced one of the better scoring chances of the game when he almost got in on Da Luz’s through-ball in the 39th minute as he helped North Carolina find some good attacking inroads before the hosts were reduced to 10 men. With the FIFA U-20 World Cup now seven weeks away, more performances like this should keep Perez in the picture to be in the squad for Poland after helping the side claim its place at the tournament last fall.