Tonight the Tar Heels Men’s Soccer Team faced Davidson at home. The game was the replay of an earlier game postponed due to weather, but this time went down without a hitch. The game was an easy one for the Heels. The Tar Heels won 1:0, having never really been under much pressure throughout. Carolina bossed possession for much of the game and had most of the chances all night. After the hubbub of an ACC intensive month for the Heels in which they ascended to the top of the ACC standings, the game served as a good rest and an opportunity to throttle down for a bit.
The first half began with both teams eager to assert their respective dominance over the game, as each time tried its best to keep hold of the ball whenever they had it. The during this period of alternating control, the Tar Heels managed to slowly push Davidson back into their own half, so that the Tar Heels were keeping possession in Davidson’s space whilst simultaneously squeezing Davidson off the ball when losing it. By the 20th minute, the Tar Heels were in complete control and did not relinquish it for the rest of the half. They managed to pressure the Davidson defense for an extended period, one of the hallmarks of a good possession team.
Once the Tar Heels had Davidson under pressure, they set about trying to unlock the Davidson defense. The first chance came when a cross field pass to the left wing set up a pass into the box for an oncoming Martin Murphy, but his shot was deflected just over the bar. In terms of memorable chances there were only a few to follow, but luckily the next led to a goal. A passing move down the right wing from Jordan Gafa and Andy Craven put Danny Garcia through on goal, and he beat the keeper with a sublime chip. Andy Craven’s low curler in the middle of the second half was the only shot after that point to deserve note, as it bounced unluckily out off of the left upright post.
The Tar Heels switched to a more up tempo style in the second half. Instead of packing men into the Davidson half, they left the forwards to get the ball up the pitch after quick services from the midfield. The tactic met with varying success, although it did enable the Heels to get forward more on the wings, where they had the most success all night.
The Tar Heels showed one of the weaknesses, if it can be called that, of a possession team. They chose far too often to try to go route one to goal and take the ball straight through the center of the field, and ended up trying to make a play with either the striker’s back to goal, or ended up just having to blast the ball towards the goal with all of the Davidson defenders in the way. When they did get the ball onto the wings, they showed some great ability on the dribble and had a better time breaking down the Davidson defense, allowing them to get more balls into the box.
The Tar Heels did a good job to keep calm and maintain control of the game, especially after the debacle at Clemson and after difficult wins against Wofford and Duke. The game presented, through the Heels’ domination of possession, a wonderful opportunity to hold a bit of a passing clinic, which will help the players get into a rhythm. As Davidson was not much of a threat, fans also got to see a few cheeky passes off the back heel and a few extemporaneous long dribbles which in a more high profile game might be unwise.
The next game for the Tar Heels will be against College of Charleston on Saturday the 13th. The game will not be televised or streamed.