A questionable call and missed opportunities cost FC Tampa Bay a chance to make a statement against the league's top team.
"Overall, I was happy with how we played. Unfortunately, it's not about being happy with how you played, it's about getting points on the board and we come away with none again," FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said after a 2-1 loss to Carolina in front of 2,688 fans at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.
The turning point in the match came in the 63rd minute, when Carolina forward Etienne Barbara, who leads the NASL with 12 goals, broke a scoreless tie by converting a penalty kick after defender Takuya Yamada was whistled for a takedown in the box.
"It's a very, very cheap penalty, very cheap call," Hill said.
"It's too late to do anything about it. We're obviously very frustrated, but these things happen in the game."
Less than three minutes later, Nick Zimmerman beat goalkeeper Jeff Attinella with a header to give Carolina a 2-0 lead.
FC Tampa Bay (2-4-4) had opportunities to score in the first half, outshooting Carolina 14-11 and 7 to 6 on goal. Perhaps its best chance was on a free kick from around 25 yards out, as midfielder Mozzi Gyorio's attempt clanked the crossbar.
Carolina has won six straight and hasn't lost since its season opener. FC Tampa Bay (2-4-4) broke a scoreless drought of 272 minutes when Mike Ambersley scored on a penalty kick in the 86th minute.