With the result, NCFC has now won four consecutive matches in Cary between USL and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition, outscoring opponents 14-1 during the stretch.
NCFC’s dominant offensive showing was highlighted by goals from all three of its strikers, as Donovan Ewolo, Daniel Rios and Marios Lomis all found the back of the net.
“Obviously delighted,” NCFC head coach Colin Clarke said. “Great result, great performance: four goals, a clean sheet. Great response to Cincinnati. It’s been a tough, long, hard seven days – three games, travel. I thought they were outstanding tonight.”
Having earned a start up top after scoring his first goal for the club midweek against Ocean City in the Open Cup, Ewolo gave North Carolina FC an early lead in the seventh minute.
The scoring opportunity came about when Ewolo outleapt Atlanta United center back Andrew Kendall-Moullin and played in Rios with a headed pass. After rounding Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann, Rios sent it back to Ewolo, who maneuvered past a defender before firing his shot in between the legs of both a defender and Kann and into the net.
NCFC’s offensive aggressiveness continued as Atlanta struggled to play out of the back, and Steven Miller made the visitors pay in the 21st minute. Approaching the end line on the right side of the 18-yard box, Miller sent in a threatening cross that resulted in an own goal scored by Atlanta's Will Crain.
Clarke’s team took a 2-0 lead into halftime and didn’t rest on its laurels out of the break. Already with an assist to his name, Rios extended NCFC’s lead to three goals with a precise strike from a tight angle in the 52nd minute. Able to track down the rebound of midfielder Kyle Bekker’s effort, which unluckily hit the crossbar, Rios shielded a defender and fired a left-footed shot past Kann.
From that point on, NCFC remained in full control and cruised to its third league win of 2018. In the 90th minute, Lomis, who came on in the 75th minute, added a fourth goal from just a few yards out after an on-target cross from Rios.
Up Next: NCFC will play the second game of a four-match USL homestand on Saturday, June 2, at 7 p.m. ET against Bethlehem Steel. The match will be the first ever between the two teams. Tickets are available online, over the phone at 919-459-8144 or in person at the Coastal Credit Union Box Office.
Game Changer: Ahead 2-0 as halftime neared, NCFC was in full control of the game. However, Atlanta United nearly nicked a goal one minute into first-half stoppage time, but NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis rose to the occasion. Alone right in front of goal following a scramble that resulted from a set piece, Atlanta United’s Brandon Vazquez was denied from close range by Tambakis, who, from the ground, blocked the effort.
The save from Tambakis came just eight minutes after the goalkeeper was hit in the head twice in the 38th minute while sliding to gather a through ball. Luckily for NCFC, Tambakis was able to stay in the game and ultimately prevent Atlanta United from getting on the scoreboard right before halftime, which could have swung the momentum.
Key Stat: NCFC has scored the first goal in five of its last six games.
They Said It: “It felt great. I’ve missed it, and it was a warm welcome from the Triangle family and NCFC. Thanks to Colin and everyone else for giving me the opportunity to be back. It was good to get a win at home.” – Tiyi Shipalane.
Notes: – With his second-half goal, Daniel Rios continued his good start to the season. Through eight matches, the Mexican striker has notched five goals, and he also earned his first two assists of the season Friday night.
– Thanks to another good night in goal, Alex Tambakis is up to four shutouts in 2018. The Greek goalkeeper has played every minute of USL action this season for NCFC.
– Fan-favorite Tiyi Shipalane, who re-signed with NCFC on Thursday, entered the match as a substitute in the 85th minute to a large applause from the home crowd. Now in his eighth season with the club, Shipalane ranks second in club history in goals (33), minutes (11,661) and appearances (176) and first in assists (20).
– Marios Lomis stayed in great goal-scoring form Friday night. With his 90th minute tally, Lomis has now scored in four consecutive matches.
– Friday night’s match was the first ever between NCFC and Atlanta United 2, which is playing its first season. However, a longstanding soccer rivalry between Atlanta and Raleigh dates back to the 1990s with the Raleigh Flyers and Atlanta Ruckus.
Lineups: NCFC (4-4-2): Alex Tambakis; Peabo Doue, Michael Harrington, Futty Danso, DJ Taylor; Austin da Luz © (Marcel Kandziora, 61’), Kyle Bekker (Tiyi Shipalane, 85’), Graham Smith, Steven Miller; Daniel Rios, Donovan Ewolo (Marios Lomis, 75’)
Subs not used: Austin Guerrero, Dre Fortune, Connor Tobin, Aaron Guillen
ATL (4-5-1): Alec Kann; Jose Hernandez (Chris Goslin, 81’), Will Crain, Andrew Kendall-Moullin, Jack Metcalf ©; Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, Jose Carranza, Laurent Kissiedou (Andrew Carleton, 46’), Lagos Kunga (Yosef Samuel, 61’), Jon Gallagher; Brandon Vasquez
Subs not used: Paul Christensen, Oliver Shannon, Devon Sandoval, AJ Cochran
Score: NCFC: 4 ATL: 0
Goals: NCFC: Donovan Ewolo (Daniel Rios, 7’), Will Crain (OG, 21’), Daniel Rios (Unassisted, 52’), Marios Lomis (Daniel Rios, 89’) ATL: --
Cautions: NCFC: Kyle Bekker 45+' ATL: Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu 72’, Andrew Kendall-Moullin 72’
Ejections: NCFC: -- ATL: --