CARY, N.C. – Matt Hundley scored twice after coming on as a substitute, including the game-winning goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time, as Memphis 901 FC took a 3-2 victory against North Carolina FC on Thursday night at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in a game that saw the hosts rally late from a two-goal deficit before surrendering the winner.
Memphis held the halftime lead through a goal by Rafa Mentzingen on the half-hour mark, and with 15 minutes to go doubled its lead as Cal Jennings held up play well at midfield to spring a counterattack that saw Tommy McCabe release Hundley down the right. Hundley got into a race with a tracking defender, but then cut back inside after getting into the penalty area and finished low into the left corner.
That appeared to set the visitors on the way to three points, but with four minutes to go North Carolina got back into the game as Robbie Kristo grabbed a lifeline for his side. Off an in-swinging corner kick from the left by Ben Speas, Kristo rose above everyone at the near post to connect with a powerful header that found the left side of the net.
Energized by the finish, the hosts pulled level in the first minute of stoppage time. After a ball was half-cleared out of the penalty area it was held in by Nazmi Albadawi, who chipped an angled ball back into the left side of the box. Conor Donovan headed across goal, and D.J. Taylor was on hand to finish, guiding his header low into the net.
At that moment it felt like the hosts had a chance to win, but Hundley had other ideas. After the visitors produced a short spell of pressure, the ball came to Zach Carroll in the middle of NCFC’s half. His chipped pass into the right side of the penalty area gave Hundley the chance to gather possession, and the Colorado Rapids loanee cut back toward the center of the penalty area before firing in a left-footed shot in the 98th minute to grab Memphis a huge three points for its season.
Earlier in the night, the hosts could have taken the lead in the 28th as a quick move upfield saw Hadji Barry release Manny Perez sprinting into the right channel, but Memphis goalkeeper Jimmy Hague got just enough on Perez’s low shot as he moved into the penalty area to send it wide of the right post.
Just two minutes later it was instead Memphis that hit the front. After turning out of pressure near the halfway line, Jose Baxter sent a nice lifted pass forward to Mentzingen just outside the top-right edge of the penalty area. Mentzingen faced up to his defender, juked inside to create space and fired home a powerful left-footed finish into the near post.
North Carolina almost leveled three minutes before halftime when Pecka found Dre Fortune in space in the left side of Memphis’ penalty area, but the Trinidad & Tobago international’s low, curling finish to the far post just went the wrong side of the upright. Fortune went close again early in the second half as he linked up with Barry in the penalty area, but then skied his shot after Barry had cut back a pass to him 10 yards from goal.
The hosts continued to build pressure in the opening quarter-hour after the break, and Steven Miller missed a golden opportunity in the 54th minute as a cross by Perez from the right found him unmarked at the top of the six-yard area only for his finish to go wide of the right post. Perez then clipped a finish just off target off a low cross from Taylor from the right, unable to twist his body enough to find the right angle for the shot.
Memphis’ first good chance after the break came in the 65th minute as Marc Burch delivered an angled ball from the left to the right side of the penalty area. After the visitors won a pair of headers in the penalty area to keep the play alive the ball fell to Jennings for a turning shot that NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis was well positioned to save.
Ten minutes later, Jennings helped set up Hundley’s first of the night to push the lead to two. But after North Carolina had threatened to become the latest side to take points from 901 FC after trailing this season with its two late tallies, Hundley popped up once more to ensure the visitors would walk away with a crucial victory.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Matt Hundley, Memphis 901 FC – Hundley produced two excellent finishes, including the game-winner deep in stoppage time, as 901 FC kept its postseason hopes alive with victory.