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The Daily Tar Heel

Midfield strength shines for UNC

Tar Heels control possession against N.C. State

Stephen McCarthy, who is coming off a medical redshirt last season, has dominated the midfield for North Carolina in his senior campaign.
Stephen McCarthy, who is coming off a medical redshirt last season, has dominated the midfield for North Carolina in his senior campaign.

RALEIGH — The stands at N.C. State’s newly constructed Dail Soccer Field were so full that people were being turned away at the gate. Those not allowed in climbed four floors in the Reynolds Coliseum parking garage just to watch the home team battle against North Carolina.

The fans were ready to watch an electric game between two rivals. But once the game started, there wasn’t much opportunity to stand and cheer — for either side.

For most of the game, UNC maintained a glue-like control of the ball. The energy emanating from the raucous crowd was flattened by the efficient passing of North Carolina’s midfield.

“I think we really found a good rhythm for parts of the game,” redshirt senior Stephen McCarthy said. “We haven’t been doing that too much so it was nice to see.”

Though the strongest unit of North Carolina’s team seems to be its midfield, they had yet to show they could possess the ball for a majority of the game — until Friday night.

With a young N.C. State packing it in on defense, the Tar Heels’ midfield was able to move the ball easily. But instead of an exciting game, fans were treated to a cruise-control performance by UNC.

“You get in almost a lackadaisical state when you keep the ball and not going forward,” McCarthy said.

While the Tar Heels did whatever they wanted in midfield, their success did not translate into many scoring opportunities, a fact not lost on UNC coach Elmar Bolowich.

“We want to make them run and we want to spread them out so that we can find the gaps to go forward,” Bolowich said. “Now, we did spread them out, but we didn’t do a good job of going forward.”

Part of that was due to the strategy of N.C. State, who continually dropped players into its own box and saw most of its scoring chances come off the occasional counter-attack. Midfielder Michael Farfan said UNC needs more patience when it comes to attacking the goal.

“We just need to keep our composure in the final third and play the same way we play in the other two thirds,” Farfan said. “I think we just need to stay calm and not freak out when we get closer to goal.”

It was Farfan who showed the most composure of the night when he calmly collected a ball in the box and crossed it to Eddie Ababio for the winning goal.

And though Bolowich said he would like to have seen his team score more than one goal, he was pleased with the way his team controlled the game.

“I wish we would have done a little bit more on the offensive end today,” Bolowich said. “But at some point we just need to control our game and hold it and not get into a hole on the other side.”

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