UNC Soccer: Tar Heels cruise against NC State.


Tonight the UNC Men’s Soccer Team played NC State in Raleigh. The match kicked off at 7 pm and was broadcast on ESPN3. The Tar Heels won, and while this was a big rivalry game against a capable opponent, the Heels never really had a hard time.  The score of 2:0 was a fair one, as the Heels had the better chances in the game and controlled the play.

The game began with a few early chances, but as soon as the teams settled in the Tar Heels’ strategic advantage was apparent. The Heels quickly began to play from the back and kept that strategy for most of the game, with patience and measured passing the solution to break down the Wolfpack defense. The first chance of the game came in the 10th minute as Raby George made a run into the box and fed Andy Craven, whose shot was saved by the State keeper. In the 25th Danny Garcia was chopped down outside the box. While the offending State player was not booked, State’s Conor Agnew was booked for dissenting. The free kick resulted in only a corner, but the corner taken by Verneri Valimaa nearly went straight into goal, deflecting off the far post. Fans can only wonder “if only”, for had it gone in the shot would have been goal of the season.

The Heels should have opened the scoring when Danny Garcia stole the ball and played it through to Andy Craven, but Craven’s chipped shot was cleared off the line. After the break, the Tar Heels nearly had a penalty when Rob Lovejoy hopped past three defenders and was through on goal. He was brought down in the box by the keepers’ feet, and although the referee called the PK, his assistant on the sideline called it back and had Lovejoy booked for diving. The Tar Heel pressure finally paid off from a set piece as the Heels scored from Rob Lovejoy’s header to the bottom corner off a free kick from the flank.
The Heels felt very little pressure from the Wolfpack until the 70th, when NC State center forward Alex Martinez entered “god mode” and began carving up the UNC defense. Alex is the brother of former Tar Heel star Enzo Martinez, and he has much of his brother’s pace and skill. Prior to this point all of NC State’s best chances had come from his free kicks and corners, and he turned up the intensity late on to try and level the scores. The Wolfpack almost equalized in the 73rd when Sonny Mokungu’s header from a corner was cleared off the line by the UNC defense, but this would prove to be their first and last chance of note.
The Wolfpack had their period of pressure, but once it was done the Tar Heels iced the game. Rob Lovejoy’s sumptuous backheel found Danny Garcia in the box, and his hesitation to allow a defender run past opened up the goal to him.
The Tar Heels were in control for most of the game, and the only chances NC State created were either off target or easy saves for Scott Goodwin, with the exception of the one shot the Heels cleared off the line. The State team was set up in a defensive 4-5-1 to try and withstand the Tar Heel attack, but scoring was always likely for the Heels given their control.
The next game for the Heels will be on Thursday against Boston College, and it will be the last game of the regular season. It will be broadcast on ESPN3.