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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC and NC State men's soccer coaches formerly teammates, now rivals

North Carolina men’s soccer coach Carlos Somoano and N.C. State coach Kelly Findley are both in the middle of their second seasons as head coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But the history between the two goes back further than the 2011 matchup at Fetzer Field — much further.

Neither coach can remember exactly when they met, but they agree that it was more than 30 years ago.

Findley said they were probably seven or eight years old when they first played soccer together in the Houston area where the two grew up.

“We played locally on a team in the Bay area, kind of in between Houston and Galveston,” Somoano said.

“When we got to high school, we ended up playing on the same club team in downtown Houston, which actually was just about an hour and a half from us.

“We carpooled five times a week to get there, which was, as you can imagine, two and half, three hours round trip. So we got to know each other pretty well.”

Findley recalled those road trips back and forth to Houston. He also recalled that Somoano wasn’t the best driver.

Somoano wanted to point out that his driving in high school was a reflection of the old Buick he drove and not his driving skills.

The leader of the Wolfpack was more complimentary of Somoano’s skills on the field.

“Carlos was a good player, a hard worker, a very focused guy, disciplined — all the things he is now, he was then,” Findley said. “He’s a good friend.”

During the season, the two are busy with their own teams and don’t have the chance to keep up with each other as much as they do in the offseason. But that doesn’t stop them from communicating.

“We do stay in touch, and I would say probably more in the offseason than the season,” Somoano said. “If not for any other reason than we’re both doing the same thing. We’re both just consumed with our teams.”

Though the two are now conference rivals separated by a stretch of Interstate 40, they both see similarities in their personalities and approaches to the game of soccer.

Many of those similarities are the same ones they shared when they were competing together back in Texas.

“There was really no competitive team in our area. We both made the commitment to make this hike. … I think that speaks to the intent of us both,” Somoano said. “We were both determined, and that’s how I remember him, as a very determined guy, a diehard soccer guy like me.

“We wanted to make it, and perhaps we didn’t have immediately in our area a competitive team, but we made it work, and somehow we made it both in the soccer business, and I think that speaks volumes.”

Tonight at N.C. State, though, the two old comrades will have to put that friendship on hold for 90 minutes. But for these two focused leaders, that won’t be a problem.

“In a game like this, anytime the Wolfpack is playing the Tar Heels, you know that motivation is not going to be a problem,” Findley said. “So we’re just making sure that we understand our roles, stay focused on what we do well and enjoy the opportunity.”

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