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The Daily Tar Heel

All-ACC forward out with shoulder injury

Billy Schuler slides after a ball against the Akron Zips. Two days later, he injured his shoulder, causing him to miss the remainder of the year.
Billy Schuler slides after a ball against the Akron Zips. Two days later, he injured his shoulder, causing him to miss the remainder of the year.

A year after it hobbled to the College Cup semifinals without the help of three starters, the North Carolina men’s soccer team has once again fallen victim to the injury bug.

This time, the casualty is All-ACC forward Billy Schuler, who will have arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder either today or Friday, joining sidelined midfielder Cameron Brown on the disabled list for the rest of the season.

Schuler aggravated an injury he suffered in the spring during a 4-1 victory against Seton Hall on Sept. 5 when the junior collided with the opposing goalie in pursuit of a loose ball late in the game.

The impact caused a partial tear of a ligament in the back of Schuler’s shoulder, which would leave his shoulder in danger of being dislocated were he not to have surgery. The process will keep him out of action for the next six months.

“Schuler draws two, three defenders and opens up space for (forward Alex) Dixon, our midfield,” outside back Eddie Ababio said. “It’s going to be a huge loss.”

In Schuler’s absence, Ababio will move back up top, where he played during most of his freshman and junior seasons. Redshirt junior Brett King is expected to fill Ababio’s vacated spot along the back line.

For his part, Ababio acclimated to his new role quickly, scoring the lone and decisive goal against N.C. State on Friday.

“It’s not easy to move someone from the opposite end of the field to the other side and ask him to perform with only three days of preparation, basically,” coach Elmar Bolowich said. “Eddie did the best he could, and I’m very proud of his effort.”

Though the Tar Heels will miss Schuler’s speed and scoring touch, sophomore outside midfielder Enzo Martinez said his absence will give others on the team a chance to prove themselves.

“The funny thing is I have this belief in me that it’s no pressure, it’s all opportunity,” Martinez said. “Billy’s out very, very unfortunately, but that’s just another opportunity for another person to step up.”

One player who hopes to benefit from Schuler’s void is Josh Rice. The redshirt freshman has seen time in each of UNC’s first three games and scored a goal against Seton Hall. He and Dixon will be counted on to help make up the nine goals Schuler scored in 2009, more than any other Tar Heel.

“Josh is big, he’s strong, he’s fast,” Ababio said. “He’s got a lot of positives, so hopefully he can step up.”

Bolowich attributes the rash of injuries his team has suffered to a demanding schedule during the season and the fact that many on his team play competitive soccer year-round during the offseason.

For Ababio, the injuries aren’t an excuse, but simply something his team must work through if it hopes to qualify for its third consecutive College Cup.

“All the guys here want it so bad,” Ababio said. “We work so hard in the offseason, Elmar and all the coaches. It’s team chemistry. We just want it so bad, so we’ll do whatever it takes to get it.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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