The No. 3 North Carolina men’s soccer team beat North Carolina State 4-0 in the ACC tournament quarterfinals Tuesday, but it had to do so without leading-scorer Billy Schuler.
Schuler, who has notched 13 goals, six game-winners and three assists so far this season, was forced to sit out Tuesday night’s matchup at Fetzer Field due to a leg injury he suffered in practice.
And unfortunately for Schuler, the bench is a place with which he’s all too familiar.
After suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in a game against Seton Hall in 2010, the redshirt junior missed the remaining 22 games of the season before returning to the field in the first match of 2011.
“You miss a player like that, of course,” junior midfielder Enzo Martinez said. “Unfortunately, he was hurt and we didn’t want to risk making the injury bigger, so you adjust. You take just one player out of an entire lineup, though, it’s still the same, just a little harder to adjust.”
This injury shouldn’t be nearly as debilitating for the All-American, though.
Fortunately for Schuler, the Tar Heels did just fine against the Wolfpack. But his teammates are looking forward to having him back on the field Friday in the semifinal match against Virginia.
Schuler’s absence Tuesday opened the field to North Carolina’s bench players, who proved the team’s depth with a goal in the 49th minute.
Non-starter Carlos McCrary came in clutch for the Tar Heels, tallying a goal on an unassisted bullet launched from 16 yards out to beat the N.C. State keeper.
“Guys stepped up,” captain Kirk Urso said. “I thought Glen Long did great when he came in, and Carlos McCrary did really well bringing energy to the team.”
First-year head coach Carlos Somoano was equally complimentary of his bench players and the entire team, who managed a shutout without their top goal-scorer.
“We just tried to look at a few different combinations as to who could play that role,” Somoano said. “We have some capable players who can fulfill the role. We have a lot of talent from the top to the bottom of the program.”
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