As Penn FC prepared to kick off The Homestretch, they were looking down a particularly favorable stretch of matches because almost all of their fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders would be visiting City Island during the final stretch of the season. If they could pull off wins over the likes of NYRB II, Charlotte Independence, and North Carolina FC, then they’d be in a solid position for the playoffs. But those hopes took a big hit Sunday night as Penn FC fell to NC FC 1-0.
Penn FC had a solid lineup available after Wednesday’s win over Indy Eleven, and it looked like they were putting their best foot forward ahead of a rough stretch of matches in the coming weeks. Pedro Galvao returned to the lineup at left back while Isaac Osae was on the bench for the first time since getting injured against Bethlehem. Overall, the team had plenty of good options.
Penn FC came out with the offensive initiative and they were able to take several early cracks at the goal. Marco Franco nearly put one away within the first five minutes and Paulo Jr. had a good look that went just wide. With Penn FC controlling the majority of possession, it looked like it was only a matter of time before they found their first goal.
That whole plan went out the window in the 11th minute when Daniel Rios put away the night’s only goal for NC FC. Viktor Igbekoyi got the play started by cleaning out Richard Menjivar and sending a through ball for Rios. Rios was able to come up with the ball against two defenders and he sent it inside the left post to put NC FC up early. Penn FC was looking for a foul against Menjivar, but no call was made.
So despite doing almost everything right, Penn FC found themselves in exactly the position they didn’t want to be in. They weren’t able to respond quickly to the early setback, so NC FC just settled in and said “find a way to beat us.” Despite having 63% possession during the half, Penn FC was only able to tally four shots.
Faced with the offensive struggles, Penn FC made some changes at the half to try and revive the team’s chances. Galvao was subbed out for Walter Ramirez and Dan Metzger came off for Osae. The new formation had an extra striker and a more offensively minded left back.
But Penn FC’s plans were quickly derailed when captain Ken Tribbett went down with what looked like a major injury to his shoulder. He was down on the field for some time and had to be subbed out in the 57th minute because of the injury. He was eventually wrapped up with ice on the sideline before slowly leaving the field with the trainers. With less than thirty days left in the regular season, it seems like this it the type of injury where his season could be over.
Penn FC was out of subs early and they failed to trouble goalkeeper Alex Tambakis as they looked for an equalizer. The Penn FC attack consistently broke down in the offensive third and they only made four shots in the second half. The only shot on goal came in added time off of a free kick taken by Ramirez. But a brilliant save by Tambakis preserved the victory for NC FC.
- The loss to NC FC leaves Penn FC in a rough position. Their maximum points available are now only 53, which might not be enough to guarantee a playoff spot. And to even get that many points, they’ll need to defeat Louisville, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh during the next week.
- The more troubling loss for Penn FC might be captain Ken Tribbett. He has been a huge part of the team’s success both on defense and on offense. Haruna Shaibu did a good job replacing him on Sunday night, but it’ll be Tiago Calvano and Harri Hawkins who will be the ones stepping up to replace him for the rest of the season.