A thunderstorm delayed No. 1 North Carolina’s 2-0 win over Virginia Tech by 90 minutes in both teams’ ACC opener.
But even the heavy rain couldn’t cool off UNC senior Martin Murphy, who scored two goals in the first half.
UNC lost players from last year’s team who accounted for 90 percent of goals scored, including five of its top six scorers to graduation. But Murphy has filled the void.
Murphy, who scored one goal on UNC’s national championship team a year ago, has four goals this season in as many games.
Coach Carlos Somoano moved the senior from midfield to forward in the Tar Heels’ final preseason friendly, and Murphy has already scored three game-winning goals in UNC’s first four games.
“I think moving forward definitely helps, it gives you more chances in front of goal,” Murphy said. “I feel comfortable playing multiple positions, and I think this is where (Somoano) feels I can help the team most.”
Last year, the Tar Heels played with three attacking players: Billy Schuler, Ben Speas and Rob Lovejoy. But Schuler and Speas graduated, and Lovejoy has missed the first four games with injury.
“This year we’re playing with two forwards and that suits him up top much better,” Somoano said. “I think we did that to get him in there because we knew he’s one of our better finishers.”
Murphy’s first goal was a two-touch chip shot that fooled the keeper. He scored again less than two minutes later as he curled in a free kick from 30 yards out.
“I see him lining up for this free kick and I’m thinking, ‘This has a good shot at going in,’” Somoano said. “I had just felt it, that he was going to blast it in.”
Danny Garcia, a freshman from Dallas, Texas, already has four assists this season, including two to Murphy.
“I love playing with him,” Garcia said. “We make eye contact and I know exactly what he’s going to do.”
Somoano coached Murphy in Raleigh’s Capital Area Soccer League before the Glasgow, Scotland native came to UNC.
“Carlos has been my coach for many years, even before I came to college, so he’s been a huge part of what I’ve been able to do,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he is comfortable switching positions, and has enjoyed helping the team in his new role.
“I’ve always played multiple positions throughout my career. My sophomore year I played in the midfield and then moved up to forward. I’ve even played at right back.”
For now, it looks like Murphy has cemented his place as a forward in UNC’s starting 11.
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