New faces ignite men's soccer team
With none of its top seven goal scorers from last year on the current active roster, the No. 4 North Carolina men’s soccer team needed a little help from some new faces and its proven back line to find a way to win two tough opening matches of the season.
The Tar Heels kicked off the annual Carolina Nike Classic by grinding out a thrilling 1-0 victory in double overtime against Monmouth on Friday. And though thunderstorms postponed Sunday’s match until Labor Day, UNC came out Monday morning with an electric second half, scoring four goals in a span of 18 minutes and shutting out No. 13 Coastal Carolina 4-0.
“The morning kickoff was strange. We’re not used to that,” coach Carlos Somoano said. “And I don’t know if our performance was some kind of nice, beautiful soccer performance.
“I don’t think it was. But it was gutty and it was gritty and we had a lot of guys contribute.”
The weekend wins marked the emergence of forward Tyler Engel, a junior transfer from Southern Methodist, as one of those prominent new contributors.
In the 103rd minute against Monmouth, it was Engel who collected a pass at the top of the box and curled a shot into the corner of the net to end the game.
“It was my first official game with the UNC Tar Heels,” Engel said. “I’ve always dreamed of coming here. It couldn’t have ended any better.”
Against Coastal Carolina, it took another volley from Engel to give the Tar Heels an early lead and the confidence to put three more in the back of the net.
“It’s good for Tyler as a new player to get in there, even if he wasn’t scoring,” Somoano said. “It’s not a matter of stats. But perhaps for him, now he’ll feel like he’s statistically contributed and maybe that helps him feel good about being a new player on the team.”
Despite a new look on offense, the Tar Heels return three of four starters on a defensive line that allowed the fewest goals last season in the NCAA.
The Tar Heel defense is showing signs of more of the same, allowing just two shots against Monmouth. And in his first games as a starter, redshirt junior goalkeeper Brendan Moore picked up two shutout victories, calling the hard-earned win against Monmouth a learning experience for both him and his team.
But UNC’s defenders weren’t just concerned with keeping the ball out of their net as junior defender Jordan McCrary added a goal. McCrary was followed by midfielders Glen Long and Raby George, who scored their first and second goals respectively as Tar Heels.
“It was my first goal here at Carolina,” McCrary said. “I’ve literally just been told the whole year, it’s my third year in and I’ve got to get a goal.”
Despite a roster ravaged by injury and graduation, the Tar Heels are finding ways to plug the holes as new faces try to play their way to prominence.