North Carolina FC raced past interstate rival Charlotte Independence, 4-1, on Wednesday night and into the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The NASL side took the lead in the 17th minute when James Marcelin headed in a cross from Lance Laing.
North Carolina FC coach Colin Clarke said getting on the scoreboard first was vital for his team.
“We talked before the game, saying the first goal was going to be important,” said Clarke. “We started our regular season scoring the first goal in the first five games. We haven’t done that in the last couple so it settles us down.”
Charlotte’s defense limited North Carolina to only two shots in the first half, but the team formerly known as the Carolina Railhawks managed to double its lead just seven minutes after halftime.
North Carolina captain Nazmi Albadawi slipped his shot into the Charlotte net after taking a pass from Saeed Robinson.
Albadawi scored again in the 82nd minute, when he chipped the ball over the Charlotte goalkeeper after a long pass from Austin Da Luz found him alone in the box.
Clarke said that goal clinched the win for North Carolina FC.
“That third one goes in and it’s game over,” the North Carolina coach said. “You know, 2-0 and you’re always worried about the momentum shift a goal can bring for them and then anything can happen from there.”
North Carolina extended its lead to 4-0 when defender Connor Tobin drilled a shot into the upper corner of the Charlotte net.
Charlotte tacked on its goal with a stoppage time penalty kick.
North Carolina will host MLS’ Houston Dynamo on June 14 in the next round of the USOC.