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Underclassmen propel UNC men's soccer in 5-1 win

Junior midfielder Kirk Urso registered his third goal of the season against Radford on Tuesday night. Urso’s 27-yard strike in the 63rd minute gave UNC a 3-1 lead in the second half.  The Tar Heels scored more goals Tuesday than they have in any other game in the 2010 season.
Junior midfielder Kirk Urso registered his third goal of the season against Radford on Tuesday night. Urso’s 27-yard strike in the 63rd minute gave UNC a 3-1 lead in the second half. The Tar Heels scored more goals Tuesday than they have in any other game in the 2010 season.

A week after stumbling at unranked Old Dominion, the No. 4 North Carolina men’s soccer team once again looked susceptible to a nonconference upset 26 minutes into Tuesday night’s home game against Radford.

But with its attack sputtering, UNC (7-2, 4-0 ACC) found strength in its underclassmen, who helped erase a 1-0 first-half deficit and powered the Tar Heels to a 5-1 win.

“I’m excited about all of the young players we have because we have so many old players, but the young ones are just as good,” senior midfielder Stephen McCarthy said. “It’s amazing to see.”

Despite dominating possession from the opening whistle, the Tar Heels were unable to find a hole in the Radford defense in the absence of starting forward Alex Dixon, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. UNC was then put behind the eight-ball after the Highlanders’ Iyiola Awosika scored a breakaway goal off a counter-attack in the 26th minute.

Shortly after Radford (4-3-2) took the lead, UNC coach Elmar Bolowich turned to his bench to get his team back on equal footing. In the 12 minutes following the Radford goal, Bolowich made two substitutions, bringing in sophomores Martin Murphy and Jordan Gafa and freshmen Josh Rice and Bruno Castro.

A minute and a half after the second substitution, Bolowich had his equalizer.

Just more than a minute after entering the game, Murphy won the Tar Heels a corner kick on the left side. Senior midfielder Michael Farfan’s delivery was punched away by the Radford keeper, but the ball fell to the feet of UNC defender Eddie Ababio outside the box.

Ababio played the ball through the air to Rice, who was standing on the left side of the box, just six yards from the goal. Rice expertly controlled Ababio’s pass and smacked the ball across the face of the goal to Murphy, who one-timed the ball into the net for his first goal of the season.

“Fortunately we equalized before the half,” Bolowich said. “That was huge for us to go into halftime tied, and then we could regroup.”

Things opened up for the Tar Heels after intermission, as UNC earned a 15-4 second-half shooting advantage by playing the ball to the sidelines, which stretched the defense and opened up space in the middle of the field.

It was there that Rice notched his second assist of the evening by receiving a pass from Ababio at the edge of the box and passing to a streaking Enzo Martinez for the go-ahead goal less than five minutes into the half.

“We played better coming on the outsides with (redshirt freshman midfielder) Matt Rose on the flank and Eddie Ababio on the flank,” Bolowich said. “And that’s really what we needed. We needed to break them down.”

From there, the Tar Heels went into cruise control. Four days after his short-corner goal dropped then-No. 4 Virginia, Kirk Urso showcased his striking ability once again on a 27-yard left-footed blast that gave UNC a 3-1 cushion.

Rose put the game on ice by opening his scoring account for the season with a penalty-kick goal in the 80th minute, and Murphy fittingly closed the game’s scoring with his second goal of the game with about three minutes remaining in the contest.

“I think we have great depth,” Murphy said. “We’ve got a lot of players, and I think everybody’s capable of pulling their own weight and doing their job for the team.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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