Coming off short rest, the Blues traveled to Charlotte, NC to face FC Carolina United in a thrilling conference matchup. The stage was set at the Queens University Sports Complex, where the weather remained mostly sunny and temperatures ranged around high 70’s. From the stadium stands, Asheville City chants could be proudly heard as navy-clad fans excitedly cheered and waved Beer City flags. Aiming to keep the playoff contention drive alive, Asheville City players had only one focus: a victory and the accompanying three points.
Almost as early as the whistle was blown, disaster struck for Asheville City. In the fourth minute, FC Carolina United pressed an offensive attack into the box and gained the lead with a quick goal. Sighs from disappointed fans could be heard from the Blues supporting section, as thoughts of another road loss crept into their minds. However, Elma N’For had a different vision of how the game would play out. Just a minute after the first goal of the game, the Blues forward gained possession of the ball and went to work. Barreling down the field and beating his defender, N’For fooled the goalie and tied the game in spectacular fashion.
Following the FC Carolina United kickoff, the Blues stole the ball back and sent a pass to N’For, who was once again streaking down the pitch. Pushing up the field with pace and tenacity, the striker from Cameroon buried another shot into the back of the net. Elated from the back-to-back goals, Asheville City fans celebrated and applauded the skills show put on by N’For.
As the game continued on, forward Tom Deeley utilized his set of skilled footwork along the backline, creating several offensive opportunities and forcing a handful of corners. In the 22nd minute, a lob pass across the field to the left wing connected with Deeley whose shot struck the top off the crossbar. The deflection was nearly scored as the ball narrowly missed the outstretched foot of N’For on the second chance opportunity. The Blues powerful offense was assisted in part by well placed passes by left-back Nick Boegemann and center midfielder Ryan Murphy.
As halftime winded to close, the Blues readied for one more strong attack on goal. From approximately 18 yards out, N’For leaped and headed a sailing pass towards the FC Carolina United goal. Unfortunately, the ball missed over the top of the crossbar and the halftime whistle sounded.
Coming off the halftime break, FC Carolina United looked to make a stand at defending their home field. In the 59th minute, a goal scored by a United forward tied the game and took some wind out of Asheville City’s sails. Following the goal, another offensive push from the home team resulted in a penalty kick. Ashville City goalie Parker Siegfried readied for the shot which struck the cross bar and was quickly cleared out of the hazardous area.
In the 71st minute, a thing of beauty was displayed and appreciated by soccer fans young and old. Elma N’For, the clear Man of the Match, earned his first hat trick in an Asheville City Soccer Club uniform. Powerfully heading a beautifully played pass into the box, N’for and his teammates alike could not help from celebrating his achievement as the ball reached the back of the net. Chants and cheers filled the atmosphere as the go-ahead goal proved to be the decider in such a well-fought match.
With a final score of 3-2, the City defeated FC Carolina United and gained three points in the conference standings. Currently ranked second with eight points, the Blues continue their push for championship glory. Up next, the Blues take on Inter Nashville FC in Antioch, TN. The match is scheduled for Saturday, June 3 at 7:30 pm.