- Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics
- Tar Heels forward Tyler Engel
FETZER FIELD/ CHAPEL HILL—If the No. 4 North Carolina Men’s Soccer team entered their 2013 season opener with questions about their offense, they certainly weren’t being asked by the Monmouth Hawks. Despite the absence of Tar Heels striker duo Rob Lovejoy and Andy Craven due to season-ending injuries, Monmouth came to the Carolina Nike Classic on Friday evening with a bunker mentality, the bunker in this instance being a 44 x 18 yard penalty area.
With the Hawks nesting in their backfield, the visitors stumbled across just two shots over 103 minutes of ho-hum regular and overtime play. And while the Tar Heels took 12 shots, those attempts came only via arduous effort. Ultimately, a seeing-eye score in double overtime by junior transfer Tyler Engel gave UNC a 1-0 victory in front of a Labor Day weekend crowd of 3,726.
Six of Carolina’s shots came from the forward tandem of Engel and senior Josh Rice, who also strafed Monmouth from off the wings all night. Three others, however, came from speedy left back Jordan McCrary, who would eventually figure in the game winner.
Two minutes into the second 10-minute overtime session, McCrary found fellow defender Nick Williams in the right corner. Williams in turn centered the ball to Engel just inside the 18-yard box. The SMU transfer turned and made true contact, sailing the ball into the upper 90.
“Jordan played a good ball across to to Nick, and I just tried to get over there as quick as possible in order to prevent [the defense] from sliding over in time,” Engel said. “Nick sent in a good ball to me, I just turned and looked up, saw back post and tried to hit it to the corner. Luckily it went there.”
Tar Heels head coach Carlos Somoano expressed admiration for Monmouth’s tenacity.
“That’s a good team right there,” Somoano said about his New Jersey opponent. “They’re tough as nails, and they had it on lockdown in the back. They had a lot of guys behind the ball.”
“Obviously, they didn’t play the most assertive game,” Somoano continued. “They were clearly coming out to venture a ball here or there, take a corner kick or a goal kick or a free kick or some loose ball and try to counter us. It was really obvious, and it’s a common tactic in soccer. That happens all the time, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But, we took a different approach, and our approach worked tonight.”
UNC concludes the Carolina Nike Classic this Sunday at 7 p.m. when it hosts No. 13 Coastal Carolina, which opened its own season Friday with a 1-0 win over No. 17 Wake Forest.