UNC men's soccer offense peaking as tournament starts

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Danny Garcia will play in his first NCAA Tournament game on Sunday.

But he’s not nervous — and he has no reason to be. He is, after all, the ACC Rookie of the Year.

Coach Carlos Somoano wants all of the North Carolina men’s soccer team to approach Sunday’s NCAA second round game against Maryland-Baltimore County with the same poise.

“If you start thinking about this as a different game, I think you drive yourself crazy,” Somoano said. “It’s a game with 11 people lining up on either side with a ball and some refs.

“We’re going to try to win it just like we try to win every other game we play.”

Early on in the season, the Tar Heels relied heavily and goalkeeper Scott Goodwin and a dominating defense. But as the young group played more games together, the offense started to reach its full potential. And Garcia has been instrumental in that.

The freshman forward leads UNC with six assists in 2012, and he’s also netted four goals.

“I’ve gotten better,” Garcia said. “Carlos has been helping me get better attacking, and defensively it’s helped me a lot. (I’ve) definitely gotten a lot more comfortable with the guys. They’re helping me and encouraging me to take more shots.”

Somoano not only agreed — he described the young forward’s improvement as dramatic.

With Garcia running alongside another new Tar Heel, junior transfer Andy Craven and a now healthy Rob Lovejoy, the UNC offense is as strong as it has been all season long. And because it’s now a win-or-go-home situation from here out, that offensive proficiency couldn’t come at a better time.

“Danny almost reminds me of Ben Speas last year,” Somoano said. “He wasn’t scoring many goals throughout the year, and as he got comfortable, you started to see this quality come out in him. Danny has been getting more comfortable so the goals come, and he’s healthy.

“So that helps, and Robbie Lovejoy’s back. So the combination of those three things definitely makes us a more threatening team on the goal scoring side.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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