Tonight the Tar Heels Men’s Soccer Team faced Clemson. The game was an away game for the Heels, but nonetheless they return home victorious by a score of two to zero. Both teams looked lively, but the game was marred by poor conduct from the Clemson players and coaches. Clemson were lucky to walk away with a 2:0 loss instead of an automatic 3:0 loss by forfeit, and the ACC will likely begin investigating the incidents of tonight’s game and handing out bans.
The game started well, with both teams playing an open game and injecting plenty of pace and skill. The Heels kept possession well at the start, and were able to press Clemson into their own half. The first period was marked by a contrast in styles; a juxtaposition of the Tar Heels patience to find the right passing move and the Tigers’ patience in waiting to unleash a quick attack. The first good chance of the night fell to Clemson, as they stole the ball in the Carolina box and shot on goal, but missed badly. The next chance fell to the Heels, and they opened the scoring when the Clemson keeper dropped a bouncing free kick for UNC’s Jonathan Campbell to head home.
Up to this point the game was relatively clean, but after UNC’s goal the Tigers showed themselves to be less then gracious in defeat. A spell of possession for Clemson ended with a dive in the Carolina box, which didn’t fool the referee despite the Tigers’ calls for a penalty.
Next, the game saw a bit of a singular contest between Carolina’s Mikey Lopez and the entire Clemson team, which Lopez won. Lopez’s late challenge on a Clemson player(which was on the ball and thus merely mistimed) was met with a two handed shove from Clemson’s Phanuel Kavita (a two handed shove is worthy of a straight red card, though Kavita received a yellow).
Lopez responded in the best way possible: with a brilliant goal. He unleashed a dipping swerving shot into the left of the Clemson goal after receiving the ball from Danny Garcia. Clemson then missed a wonderful opportunity to get back into the game, as a smart passing move allowed Clemson’s Preston Gayton a shot at point blank range. Scott Goodwin came to his team’s rescue and saved the shot, and the next shot off of the rebound was put wide of the Carolina goal. After missing this chance, the Clemson vs. Lopez conflict resumed, with Clemson’s Amadou Dia running Lopez over from behind (a challenge from behind is also worthy of a straight red card) and
Clemson’s Paul Clowes shoving Lopez to the ground from behind (also a potential red card offense)
The Tar Heels showed some grit to keep relatively level heads, and dropped back to defend their lead for the last 20 minutes. The Clemson assault on the Tar Heel players continued, as the go-to tactic for the Tigers seemed to be to simply bowl Carolinas’ players over instead of win the ball fairly. The Tar Heels held on for the win, though they almost had to literally fight for it. The Tar Heel defense was simply too good for Clemson, and Scott Goodwin looked impassable as ever.
The game ended with even more sourness. A dangerous two footed challenge (another supposed red card) from Clemson’s Kyle Fisher on Carolina’s Glen Long pushed the teams over the boiling point. After Long retaliated with a little kick at Fisher, Clemson’s Franklin Blaise shoved Long over (another supposed red), and both teams rushed to the spot of the foul as the Tar Heels attempted to back up their teammate, prompting the Clemson team to attempt to start a brawl with their constant shoving and screaming. While both teams were in the wrong for crowding around one another, the Clemson players seemed happy to attack anything in sight, including a referee. The incident was cleared up when UNC team captain Scott Goodwin sprinted out of goal and rounded up his team.
As the ninetieth minute approached, the referee was finally obliged to send off a Clemson player, although he should have already shown red to at least 5 others. Tiger Alex Stockinger’s challenge on Danny Garcia was the textbook example of a dangerous lunge, and no referee could have allowed Stockinger to stay on the field. The dangerous play earned a straight red card for Stockinger.
Despite the referee finally showing some willingness to eject Clemson players, the Tigers kept at it. Clemson coach Mike Noonan got into it with the referees, causing the coach himself to be booked. Carolina’s coach Carlos Somoano responded by coolly staring Noonan down for the rest of the game, which was luckily very short. The coaches made up after the whistle, but Clemson player Jack Metcalf decided that it was necessary to mouth off to his opposing coach. Coach Somoano initially responded angrily before eventually withdrawing from the foolish fray, leaving Clemson, South Carolina with his pride and with a victory.
The Tar Heels next play Davidson on Tuesday the 9th. The game was postponed from September due to weather, but will finally be played at Fetzer Field.