Despite a late goal in extra time of the second half by Tiyi Shipalane, North Carolina FC fell to the Jacksonville Armada Sunday afternoon at Hodges Stadium. The loss drops NCFC from second to third in the NASL standings behind the Armada and the first place Miami FC.
NCFC dug itself in an hole after allowing the Armada’s Zach Steinberger to score goals in the 30th and 32nd minute. Captain Aaron Pitchkolan was very impressed with Steinberger’s work to get the goals.
“It’s great to see (Steinberger) rewarded with goals. He puts himself in great spots,” Pitchkolan said in a press release.
The goals were the culmination of an aggressive opening half from the Armada. The Armada had a shot-on-goal opportunity in the fifth minute. J.C. Banks fired at close range but goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre got a save and prevented an early scoring opportunity for the Armada. The aggressive start was exactly how Armada head coach Mark Lowry the team wanted to play.
Shipalane worked the left sideline in the first half, but despite looking for teammates in the box on multiple occasions. NCFC struggled mightily on offense in the first half; during the first 45 minutes, NCFC only had one shot.
NCFC did get some breaks in the second half as the club’s all-time leading scorer Brian Shriver was subbed into the match. The switch marked a stronger half for the NCFC, as the team had five total shots, a difference .
Sylvestre also played much better in the second half; He had back-to-back saves in the 78th and 79th minutes as he smothered a one-on-one situation and followed it up by denying Charles Eloundou a goal on a free kick in the 84th minute.
Shriver almost got NCFC on the board in the 88th minute with a header, but Armada goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell snagged the ball just before it crossed the goalline. NCFC’s efforts did pay off after five minutes were added to the end of the match, giving Shipalane time to score the team’s lone goal and denying Patterson-Sewell another shutout on the year.
Despite a stronger showing in the second half, NCFC was dominated throughout the game. The Armada lead NCFC in shots on target, shots from outside the box and shots from inside the box. The Armada also doubled NCFC 12-6 in total shots. Armada coach Lowry recognized his team had room for improvement.
The temperature for the game went into the 90s during the game, getting as high as 96 degrees during the day, which was well above the average of 83 degrees during this time of the month in Florida. Despite the high temps, The Armada had a turnout of 2,176 cheering the team on.
Following the loss for NCFC, the team will take on the Charlotte Independence for the third round of the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday and follow that with a match against the New York Cosmos Sunday, both of which will be played at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. Should NCFC defeat the Independence, it will take on the Houston Dynamo on June 14th.