Tonight the Tar Heels Men’s Soccer Team played College of Charleston. The game was played in Charleston and was unfortunately not televised. The Tar Heels won by a score of 3-0. The game was a romp for the Heels, as they bossed both the play and the score sheet. Tar Heel junior Rob Lovejoy made his competitive return to the team after an off-season injury and returned in some style, scoring a hat trick after coming off of the bench.
The game was an all Carolina affair as the Heels drew five saves from Charleston Goalkeeper Kees Heemskirk and put three shots past him whilst only calling on Scott Goodwin once. They employed their preferred style, keeping possession for most of the game and managing to press College of Charleston for most of the second half. Relentless pressure off of corner kicks allowed Loevejoy to tap in his first of the night, and it was defensive pressure in the Charleston half which won him the loose ball which allowed him to score his second. A long ball released him on the break in the second half and put him one on one with the keeper, from which he scored his last.
The Charleston team was set up to try and negate the Tar Heel offense, as it contained 4 defenders and 5 men in the midfield. The best way to counter a pass- first attack like the Heels’ is generally to flood the midfield, playing as many men there as possible so as to get in the way of any passing play. The alternate tactic for a massive midfield is to park 9 men behind the ball, and just get in front of the goal. It seems that neither tactic could have been effective for College of Charleston tonight, as the Tar Heel attack was simply too good to be stopped. Were it not from a solid performance from the College of Charleston keeper we may have seen the Tar Heels rack up a few more goals on the night.
One of the marks of a great possession team is the ability to press for long periods. We saw the Tar Heels able to do this against Davidson on Tuesday and they were able to do it again tonight. To keep an opponent on the racks in defense is not only generally conducive to goal scoring, but it also puts one at a marked strategic and psychological advantage. When pressing high up the pitch, a team is almost constantly on the attack, and can nick the ball back quickly if they lose it, preventing their opponents from ever counterattacking. While the Heels’ recent ability to hold teams in their own half excites me for its possibilities, I wonder if it will transfer against tougher opponents, as the Tar Heels’ schedule only gets harder from here and this trend of sustained pressure has manifested itself thus far mostly against lesser teams.
This game and the win against Davidson are a good way to prepare for a match of the season clash with Maryland on Friday. The game is a #1 vs #2 match-up, with the Tar Heels the number two (for now). The Tar Heels will enter the away clash on a good run of form and brimming with confidence, and I thoroughly expect them to perform well. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU, and I encourage any fan of UNC sports to watch, as this could be the clash that determines the ACC Regular Season as well as the seeding for the College Cup. As always we will cover the match on Keeping It Heel.