- Neil Morris
- At least the fans scored…autographs after the Tar Heels’ 0-0 draw with Wake Forest in Chapel Hill
FETZER FIELD/CHAPEL HILL—The autumnal atmosphere of Fetzer Field could not have been more delightful for those who ventured out for an ACC duel between the (temporarily) top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and the 15th-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons. What followed was 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, a nil-nil double-overtime draw that was high on pace and intensity but low on finishing.
According to UNC sports information, it was Carolina’s first 0-0 draw since the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament against Georgetown. But lest any of the 3,165 in attendance depart thinking the outcome was one only a soccer purist could love, UNC coach Carlos Somoano has some thoughts for you.
“I think the game was a very, very high paced, intense game from both teams,” said the Tar Heels’ gaffer. “There was a lot of quality in the match. I think that’s a good college soccer game. People can say whatever they want about not executing plays to score a goal here or there. We tried, they tried…that was a high quality game right there. That’s going to be at the top of the list in terms of quality of soccer games at the end of the season.”
Indeed, over the course 90 minutes of regular time and two 10-minute golden goal extra time periods, both teams combined for 21 shots (9 on frame). However, they also combined for 28 fouls that often served to stymie any flow of play—Wake play enforcer in the middle of the pitch, while Carolina committed most of their transgressions along the edges.
One could interpret the fact that only two yellow cards were shown over the course of nearly two hour of tripping and tackling as evidence of an attempt to “let the players play.” However, bookings also serve the purpose of insuring that a game remains positive and free-flowing. Without consequences, fouls will beget fouls.
One of the most lively incidents came late in the second half when freshman Nyambi Jabang, inserted just three minutes earlier, went down with an injury after a hard tackle. With Jabang lying prone on the pitch, the nearby Carolina coaching staff were demonstrable over the referee’s no-call. Soon, the other players came together for a bit of jawing and shouldering.
Somoano said he had no problem with the no-call. But…
“[Wake] had somebody kind of mocking him, or more like a couple of guys celebrating that the tackle was a good, hard tackle,” he recalled. “That’s fine if you want to celebrate your tackle, but the guy is obviously down injured and you’re celebrating that the guy is injured, which is what I think our guys had a problem with.”
Of the two teams, Carolina generated the best chances. In the 56th minute, midfielder Danny Garcia delivered a cross to defender Jonathan Campbell in the box. Campbell’s header was blocked but the rebound took a deflection that nestled the ball along the end line, where it remained for what seemed like whole seconds until a Wake Forest defender decided to cleared it off the line for good.
The man of the match was Wake Forest goalkeeper Michael Lisch, who made five saves for the match, including four in the second half alone. In Lisch’s own opinion, his biggest and best save came with five minutes left in regulation time when midfielder Danny Garcia found himself with time, space and the ball, but his shot was deflected away by Lisch’s reflexive left leg.
A minute later, the Deacons’ Sam Fink launched a poke shot that nearly found the Tar Heels’ empty net. However, the hopeful delivery bounded just right of the right post.
The result is Carolina’s second straight scoreless effort after last Tueday’s 1-0 loss at James Madison. Somoano admits his front line is banged up right now, including Martin Murphy, who played despite battling the flu, and Andy Craven, who left the game for good after 34 minutes due to an unspecified “strain.” The situation has left the Tar Heel with what their manager calls “attacking by committee.”
However, Somoano saw no common denominator between Friday’s intense play and his team’s languid performance at James Madison.
“[At] James Madison we were zombies coming out in the game,” he said. “I think we were prepared for James Madison in almost every way, but maybe we started to take things for granted and I think the guys just lost their focus. I didn’t see it coming—obviously if I had I would have tried to wake them up. I don’t know if there’s anything I could have done, it’s just part of [being] a new team. We have a lots of guys who are going through this for the first time on the field…we have a guy from Europe who doesn’t know anything about college soccer.”
Speaking of college soccer, it should also be noted that Friday was Wake Forest’s third consecutive double-overtime match in the span of a week. There’s reason to question the propriety of college kids playing overtime games during regular season play, unlike the rules even in the professional ranks. Indeed, over the 20 minutes overtime play on Friday, Wake Forest attempted only three shots (one on-target) and Carolina didn’t muster any. Neither tired team won a corner kick, but they combined for six fouls.
Still, Somoano has no problem with the college format.
“I think the intent is to try and get a winner, and try and discourage teams from sitting in and playing negative soccer,” he explained. “I think that’s the reasoning behind it. Does it work? I don’t know…that’s college athletics. I think the difficulty is it’s a short season and trying to balance playing time for kids. It’s OK—I don’t have a strong opinion either way.”
North Carolina (4-1-1, 1-0-1 ACC) hosts Davidson next Tuesday, September 18 at Fetzer Field. Kickoff in 7 p.m.