Oak City Supporters’ Ryan Jernigan Previews The Second Half

1. Who do you think is going to breakout or have the best second half of the season.

Wow, seems crazy that we’re already about to start the Fall Season.  I’m sure the blur of the “break week” including both an MLS Rally and a friendly with Swansea didn’t help, but here we are.  I wish I could just give you one name, but I have a few based on different criteria. Throughout the preseason the standout was Alex Molano, who lead the preseason in goals, but where has he been since?  Word is he’s been injured and almost finally ready to play again. Will he make the field this season for NCFC? Well, I’m not sure, but if he does, watch for it.  Otherwise, I’d say both Nazmi Albadawi and Austin da Luz are due.  Both players have really played well in the midfield but haven’t appeared on the score sheet as much as some might have thought, I’d expect that to change.

2. What changes need to be made to get into the playoffs.

Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-NCFC

A consistent approach to the defensive midfield is necessary.  When James Marcelin plays in the center of the defensive midfield the difference in the two players mentioned above (Naz & da Luz) is extremely noticeable.  Both players are able to roam much more freely moving forward with the Haitian tucked behind them, it also allows Nazmi (who set the league record for assists last season) to truly concentrate on the playmaker roll that he thrives in. We’ll also need more consistent scoring from our forwards not named Lance Laing’s left foot.  While Schuler has definitely made a surprising mark as a sub, Fondy hasn’t hit his stride just yet this season.

3. Chances of making the playoffs.

I still believe this is a playoff team. Why? Lets compare how we’re faired against the league leaders. Miami FC has been one of the most impressive teams in US Soccer, and no, I did not mean to say the NASL, I mean in the entire country so far this season.  However, after 3 meetings, the results have favored NCFC with 2 draws and a win.  This team has both the ability and caliber of player to finish well enough in the standings to make the playoffs. Call me a homer, but 100%, this team makes the playoffs.

4. Most impressed/least impressed from the team in the Spring?

Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-NCFC

I’ve already hit on some of the less impressive parts of the season so I’ll focus on the most overwhelming positive: Brian Sylvestre. Brian currently is 1st in the league in saves (and yes, here comes your daily serving of stats, cause it’s mid season and dammit we’re worth it) with an impressive 67 saves, and it’s not really even close. Former ‘MLS Goalkeeper of the Year’ Jon Busch is sitting 15 behind at 52 saves on the season thus far. Even crazier is that he’s only 24 (much like Danny Almonte: Lemme see that birth certificate).  I don’t think it’s even an argument that the midseason player award goes to Sylvestre.

5. What letter grade would he give NCFC for their spring performance and why?

Based on a 5th place Spring Season finish compared to my preseason placement of 3rd, I’d have to give the team a C.  We’re a better team than Jacksonville, and I have a hard time believing a first year team in San Francisco should outperform our boys with the solid core we brought back this season.  If NCFC was sitting above or even with one of those teams, the grade would be much higher. I mentioned earlier that Sylvestre leads the league in saves, but what was left out is that he also leads the league in goals conceded.  I’m no mathematician, however:
1+1= Brian getting peppered more than any goalie in the league.
If we improve this, we’ll be the 3rd seed come playoff time.
One final note: The Fall Season kicks of Saturday and it’s going to be a wild ride.  So many of you are stoked on the possibility of an MLS bid as am I but if I have one message it’s this: Support the team now, it makes more difference than you know.
Okay another final note: According to Brazilian Twitter, North Carolina FC has signed Renan Gorne of Brazilian 1st Division club Botafogo on loan. According to rough Google translations Gorne scored 38 goals for the U-20 team in 2016 but has yet to crack the 1st team. If true,  this could be a huge boost to the both the Oak’s forward depth.