With just 15 minutes left on the clock in the North Carolina men’s soccer team’s third-round NCAA Tournament matchup with Fairleigh Dickinson, Cameron Brown had a point-blank look at the goal.
He initiated the possession with a pass to Rob Lovejoy and then sprinted down to the box to catch up with his teammate. After Lovejoy laid the ball off to Brown, it looked as though UNC was going to break the scoreless tie.
Brown squibbed one off to the left and into the feet of an FDU defender.
“At the last minute I saw that Andy (Craven) would have a better chance than I would have a look on goal so I tried crossing it, and their center back did really well in cutting off the cross and deflecting it out of bounds,” Brown said about his near miss.
Brown’s redemption came in the form of a golden goal 90 seconds into overtime, giving UNC the 1-0 victory.
The Tar Heels needed just one shot in the extra frame to earn the right to play in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. Lovejoy made a run along the endline to the left of the goal and sent in a low cross out in front of the goal where Brown was waiting to finish it off.
“We practiced this all week, getting the far side guy in the box when we turn the corner like that,” Lovejoy said. “I knew that somebody was going to be there. I didn’t pick my head up and see exactly who it was, but I did see a blue jersey.”
After struggling to finish in the attacking third last week against Maryland-Baltimore County, North Carolina spent some extra time in practice working on putting shots in the back of the net. That work apparently paid off.
Though a blank scoreboard after 90 minutes doesn’t suggest it, the Tar Heels (16-3-3) dominated the second half after a fairly level first.
At the break, UNC was outshooting the Knights by just one. But by the end of the game that difference was five and the Knights had just one shot in the last 30 minutes.
UNC goalkeeper Scott Goodwin, who registered his 17th shutout of the season, made his only save on the last play of the first half.
“We certainly didn’t come out with the decisiveness that we wanted in the game,” coach Carlos Somoano said. “Once we settled into the game and got a little bit more comfortable with what we were doing … it started to go our way.”
The Tar Heels started to turn up the offensive intensity in the last 10 minutes of the first half, registering three dangerous shots in quick succession.
The Knights responded with a last-second attack that forced Goodwin to make a leaping catch as the clock expired, but that was the last time FDU threatened to score.
Though it took UNC some time to find its rhythm, for Somoano the outcome was never in doubt.
“I felt like we were going to get the goal,” he said. “I didn’t see that one going to PKs — I didn’t see us losing. I really felt good about it as the game went on. I was confident that these guys would be able to overcome.”
Contact the desk editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.