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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men’s soccer defeats Virginia to take first place in ACC

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. ­— The North Carolina men’s soccer team went into Friday’s game at Virginia ranked fifth in the nine-team ACC in both goals-against average and goals per game.

But after No. 2 UNC continued its undefeated ACC season with the team’s third 1-0 victory this year, the Tar Heels left Charlottesville atop the only rankings anyone in the league cares about — the ACC standings.

Though they have not always done so with style or comfort, the Tar Heels have developed a knack for pulling out close victories in their perfect 4-0 start in conference play.

“I think that there’s not one player who you can point out and say he did not have a good game,” forward Enzo Martinez said. “I think the team won today because we all work hard, we’re all on the same page, we all wanted the same thing and that was to win here.”

Where Michael Farfan’s 35-yard wonder-strike was the difference last week against Maryland, the Tar Heels were this time buoyed by out-working the No. 4 Cavaliers on set pieces and a little bit of magic from the right foot of Kirk Urso.

The junior midfielder scored the game’s decisive goal by curling in a 59th-minute short corner kick less than two weeks after his sudden-death free kick pushed UNC past Wofford.

Urso now has struck all three of the dead balls that have resulted in North Carolina goals this season. He might have had another if either Stephen McCarthy or Martinez had been able to convert on a corner Urso played to McCarthy’s feet in the 82nd minute.

“As dangerous as teams are against us on set pieces, we try to be as dangerous,” center back Jalil Anibaba said.
“I thought our composure was really good, and I think that was key for the result. They throw a lot at us on set pieces.”

Though McCarthy was unable to give the Tar Heels a two-goal cushion, he was pivotal in preventing the Wahoos from finding an equalizer.

The 6-foot-4 holding midfielder won possession for the Tar Heels in the midfield throughout the evening and worked with the sturdy Anibaba to dispose of Virginia’s eight corner kicks.

“Everybody committed to attack the ball,” UNC coach Elmar Bolowich said. “They didn’t really have any open looks there and didn’t get to the end of it. And Stephen McCarthy, defensively he’s just a beast.”

It wasn’t just the defenders who worked to maintain the Tar Heels’ 1-0 lead, as UNC needed all hands on deck to deal with a barrage from the Cavaliers at the 75-minute mark. UVa. had three corner kicks in a two-minute span, one of which forced a punching save from UNC goalkeeper Scott Goodwin and saw Martinez nearly hurtle into a brick wall in pursuit of the rebound.

The Cavaliers’ Will Bates headed the ensuing corner kick toward the left-hand side of the net, but Farfan was there to clear the ball off the goal line and preserve the clean sheet.

“We just have warriors at the back,” Martinez said. “When I go and I sit right there beside the post and I’m waiting for the ball, I have no worries because I look beside me and I have these guys who are double my size and I go, ‘Ah, they got it.’”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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