All-star roster could help NCFC to special 2023 | Image Credit: North Carolina FC
CARY, N.C. - The biggest turnaround in league history was Tormenta FC jumping eight spots up the table between 2021 and 2022. North Carolina FC might not end up as champions by the end of the 2023 campaign, but don’t be shocked to see the club that finished last in the league in back-to-back seasons make a significant leap this season. Still, Head Coach John Bradford will be responsible for getting the most out of his talented squad as he enters his third season at the helm.
Despite fielding one of the most productive attacking duos in Garrett McLaughlin and Oalex Anderson, NCFC was held back a season ago by bad breaks and bad goalkeeping. North Carolina’s goal differential minus expected goal differential of –17.57 in 2022 was nearly double the previous league high. That allowance of a league-leading 53 goals in situations where defensive stops and/or ‘keeper saves were expected led NCFC to a league-high 16 losses and a position at the bottom of the table.
North Carolina has done everything right this offseason. The club, now entering its third season in League One, retained its top three goalscorers in Garrett McLaughlin, Oalex Anderson and Jaden Servania. Not stopping there, NCFC went out and signed 2022 All-League selections Daniel Navarro, Louis Perez and Mikey Maldonado in addition to veteran League One midfielder Rafa Mentzingen. Goalkeeping will continue to be a question with the departure of Austin FC loanee Will Pulisic and continued development of talented youngster Nicholas Holliday. Former Chattanooga loanee and Seattle Sounders FC academy product Tor Saunders will presumably take over first-team goalkeeping duties.
Garrett McLaughlin | Image Credit: North Carolina FC
Nearly doubling his career goal total from two previous professional seasons, McLaughlin finished second in the Golden Boot race with 14 goals for NCFC. McLaughlin’s 14 scores were the most for NCFC since Daniel Rios scored 20 goals for the club in the 2018 USL Championship season. The All-League First Team selection led the League in expected goals (12.55) and led all forwards in duels won (151), fouls won (72) and clearances (16). McLaughlin enters his second season in Cary following time with Rio Grande Valley FC (2020) in the USL Championship and Toronto FC II in USL League One (2021).
Louis Perez | Image Credit: FC Tucson
After a professional debut season with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the USL Championship in 2021, Perez proved incredibly productive in his first season in League One with FC Tucson. Perez was tied for the team lead in goals with five and led his side with seven assists – more than quadrupling his combined career goals and assists total entering the season. The Frenchman’s 55 chances created were tied for the second most on the season as the All-League Second Team selection’s season was a bright spot in a largely disappointing season for Tucson.