North Carolina FC’s regular season begins this Saturday at 7:30 P.M. at Wake Med Soccer Park against Miami FC. We thought, who better to let everyone know what to look out for this season than the founder of Oak City Supporters? Ryan Jernigan took the time to answer our questions about the upcoming season. If you’re looking to join a supporters’ group, tailgate strong, and have a good time then click on over to their website and join.
Check back tomorrow for Raleigh City Sports’ interview with Nazmi Albadawi where we talk about season goals, stadium ideas, and favorite spots around Raleigh.
What does someone new to North Carolina FC need to know heading into this season?
Where to start? This has been the most thrilling offseason in the 11-year history of the club. The club rid itself of its horrible orange shell by executing a community uniting rebrand, relocated the reigning NWSL Champions, and presenting an impressive MLS bid. Further, they strengthened the bid by becoming the largest youth to pro pyramid in the US. This offseason has been a whirlwind but has culminated in the most exciting buildup to a season we’ve ever seen.
Looking at this year’s fixtures, what game are you most excited about? Game wise and also tailgate wise?
The season opener always feels like the best version of a family reunion, except in this case, everyone generally likes each other. Instead of bashing your crazy Aunt Brenda who hugs a little too long and drunkenly bursts into song, everyone morphs into Brenda and comes together to support our club regardless of political, religious, or cultural affiliation. Other than that, playing the Cosmos at home is always a party. They’re as legendary a club as they are an easy target for most of what is wrong with U.S. Soccer, thus fueling the fire.
Which newcomers are you most excited about?
We’ve signed a lot of role players, but the signing of Lance Laing was most surprising. Lance is a 3x Best XI in the league and one of the players I hated the most. Not Anymore. It was the irrational hate most soccer fans feel for a player who has constantly inflicted painful moments on your club, but one you’d love to cheer for given the opportunity. Other than that, Alex Molano has looked amazing in the preseason by leading the club in goals from the midfield.
There been a lot of excitement around the club but what are the expectations?
With the NASL, anything is possible. The biggest upside we have going into the season is we’re returning more players than we have in the past. Lower division soccer can sometimes lean towards the gypsy lifestyle, but, for once, we’ve kept a solid core. Returning Tobin, Miller, Black, Moses, and Sylvestre kept a familiarity to our defense that we’ve never had season to season. Similarly, another year of Nazmi, Tiyi, Da Luz and Fondy gelling on the offensive side is really exciting. My guess is that we get into the playoffs with the 4th seed. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.
What do you think of our MLS chances?
I saw us holding the fifth or sixth spot on the list when the cities placing MLS expansion bids were announced (Four make the cut). However, I forgot Steve Malik never seems to disappoint. Like I mentioned earlier, since announcing the bid we’ve become the largest youth to pro soccer pyramid in America. Perhaps even more impressive than that, Malik now sits on the U.S. Soccer Board of Governors alongside the MLS Commissioner Don Garber. While I don’t think we’ll be one of the first two teams to join this round of MLS Expansion, I do think we have an amazing shot at the third or fourth spot. The main thing, and part of the reason Oak City Supporters even started, is that the people of Raleigh and the surrounding areas need to get more involved. Yeah, we all love watching the Premier League/MLS/Champions League, but we need to translate the passion this city has for soccer by getting people off their couch and coming to the games. For all that show up, come join us in the South Stand for every single game.