UNC vs. UCLA: Men’s Soccer Quarterfinal Preview


On Saturday, December 6, at 8:00 P.M. EST, the North Carolina Tar Heels men’s soccer team will take on the UCLA Bruins in a quarterfinal matchup of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship. The game will take place at UCLA’s Drake stadium in Los Angeles, and will be televised on the Pac 12 Network.

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Both squads are coming off close wins in the previous round of the tournament. Head coach Carlos Somoano’s Tar Heels (15-5-1) held the Clemson Tigers to one goal from a penalty kick in the first half, and beat the Tigers 2-1. The no. 2 seeded Bruins (13-4-4), under head coach, Jorge Salcedo, narrowly escaped a late comeback from the California Golden Bears, and managed to win 3-2.

The all-time record between the two schools in soccer is 2-0-2, in UCLA’s favor, but UNC holds the advantage all-time in the NCAA Tournament with a victory in penalty kicks in the 2011 semifinals. These sides met earlier this season in the Carolina Nike Classic in Chapel Hill, but the then-ranked no. 1 Bruins handed the Tar Heels their first loss, winning 1-0 thanks to the lone goal scored by Bruins star midfielder, Leo Stolz.

Dec 11, 2011; Hoover, AL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after winning the NCAA Soccer Championship against the UNC Charlotte 49ers at Regions Park. The Tar Heels defeated the 49ners 1-0 to win the championship. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

Behind the timely heroics of senior forward, Rob Lovejoy, and the great form of MAC Hermann trophy semifinalist, senior forward, Andy Craven, the Tar Heels will bring a top-ranked attacking front to L.A. on Saturday night. North Carolina leads the nation in total goals (49), and is second only to Cal in total assists (51). On the back-end, the Heels bring plenty of experience to the table with both senior defenders, Boyd Okwuonu and Jordan McCrary having played in a combined 22 NCAA tournament games in their respective careers. The Tar Heel faithful will therefore have to rely on senior goalkeeper, Brenden Moore, who has only played in five tournament games, to be strong in the net. UNC ranks 115th in Division I soccer in save percentage (.746).

UCLA will rely heavily on its strong midfield and exceptional goalkeeping against the heavy artillery the Tar Heels will have in place. Thankfully for the Bruins, they will be relying on two things they exceed UNC in. UCLA ranks 84 in the nation in save percentage (.768), and senior goalkeeper, Earl Edwards Jr. is six saves away from being tied for fifth among all-time UCLA goalkeepers. In addition, the midfield of the Bruins of Grady Howe and the aforementioned, and also semifinalist for the Hermann trophy, Leo Stolz, is a force for the Tar Heel forwards to reckon with.

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The keys to success for the Tar Heels will be to protect Moore from having to make too many difficult saves, and to be very opportunistic with their scoring chances. With the deadly strikers the Bruins have up front and in the midfield, the Heels will not be able to afford to give up too many missed opportunities, especially in the later stages of the match.

The winner of this quarterfinal will play the winner of the quarterfinal between the Michigan State Spartans and Providence Friars in the semifinal on December 12, in Cary, North Carolina.