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The Daily Tar Heel

Late goal by Zach Wright earns No. 3 UNC men's soccer big road win over No. 2 Clemson

The No. 3 North Carolina men’s soccer team defeated No. 2 Clemson at Riggs field in Clemson, S.C., on Friday night. Junior Zach Wright scored in the 87th minute to lead the Tar Heels to a 1-0 victory over the Tigers, earning their third straight win over the conference rival.

What Happened? 

Both teams played up to their rankings in the first half, with both offenses moving the ball up and down the field and both defenses standing tall inside their penalty boxes. Despite the back-and-forth play, North Carolina set the pace and won the majority of 50-50 balls. 

The team continued its early-season trend of accumulating corner kicks, adding four more to its season total in the opening half. However, the Tar Heels were unable to take advantage of any of them. The biggest scoring opportunity of the half for either team came in the 34th minute, when the Tigers earned a penalty kick. Redshirt sophomore goalie James Pyle came through with a diving save to keep the score tied at 0-0.

In the second half, Clemson set the pace of play early with two goal-scoring opportunities that came inches short of finding the back of the net. The Tar Heels found their rhythm soon after, and were able to respond with two opportunities of their own, but the Tiger defense again held strong. Thne Clemson offense began to ramp up its offensive attack in the final 10 minutes of the game, placing four shots on goal, all of which came up short.

Who Stood Out?

Pyle rebounded from a rough performance against Virginia Commonwealth on Monday to help secure the team’s third shutout of the regular season. The most crucial of those was the save of the penalty kick taken by Clemson senior midfielder Iman Mafi. The stop kept the game level heading into the half, and allowed the Tar Heels to continue to focus on scoring off of the counter attack in the second period as opposed to having to push the majority of their players into the attack.

When was it decided? 

With under four minutes to play in regulation, the North Carolina counter attack finally broke through. After UNC stole the ball in the midfield, first-year Cam Lindley carried the ball for a few yards before feeding the ball to Wright, who was able to push the ball right past the goal keeper.

Why does it Matter?

Being able to bounce back from a rough outing on Monday to shutout the No. 2 team in the country should be a big confidence boost for the Tar Heels.It shows that they can compete with any team in the country, and should give them confidence if these two teams meet again in postseason play. 

Coming away with a victory in a road game against Clemson is arguably the most difficult challenge the team will face until they play current No. 1 Notre Dame on the road to close out the regular season. To pass such a big test so early in the season is a big accimplishment for a team with high goals for its season.

When do they play next? 

The Tar Heels are back at Fetzer field on Tuesday, when they will take on East Tennessee State at 7 p.m.


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