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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's soccer comes back to take down Florida Gulf Coast, 3-2

The North Carolina men's soccer team came from behind to defeat Florida Gulf Coast, 3-2, in double overtime Sunday night at Fetzer Field. 

What happened?

Heading into the Round of 32, both North Carolina and Florida Gulf Coast knew their strengths. For the Tar Heels, it was its defense. In 17 games, UNC allowed just eight goals, the best in the nation, while in 20 games, the Eagles had scored 60 goals, also the best in the nation.

It would be the high powered offense of Florida Gulf Coast to strike first. After ten minutes of give-and-take, Arion Sobers-Assue sent a long ball into the box that confounded the Tar Heel back line. UNC defenders Colton Storm and Walker Hume couldn't get a foot on the high, bouncing ball, and Eagle midfielder Robert Ferrer sent a floater past the diving Tar Heel goalkeeper, James Pyle.

Down a goal, the Tar Heels would look to their veteran midfielders for offensive productivity. Junior Alan Winn and senior Nico Melo combined for several quality looks at goal, but couldn't find the back of the net.

But with 15 minutes left in the first half, Melo did what he does best, playing a long ball, hooking from right to left, into the Tar Heel box. The ball found Zach Wright's head and was redirected to Tucker Hume, who slammed the ball into the net for a goal.

The Tar Heels went into halftime tied on the scoreboard, but ahead in shots and corner kicks. And straying from his usual strategy of relying on depth, Coach Carlos Somoano used just one substitute in the first half in junior midfielder David October.

Coming out of the locker room, the Eagles brought too much intensity back onto the playing field, as a pair of fouls, including a red card, would permanently shape the remainder of the game. Although the the Tar Heels didn't get a goal immediately on either foul, they did get a pair of good looks and played with a one-man advantage for the remainder of the contest.

In the immediate aftermath of the red card, UNC had several serious chances in the offensive third of the field, but redshirt senior forward Tucker Hume was waved offside three times, stifling any offensive flow.

With just under 20 minutes to play, though, it was Tar Heel Colton Storm who made the defining foul of the game, tripping an Eagle forward in the box. The nation's leading scorer, Albert Ruiz, buried the penalty kick, and Florida Gulf Coast took a 2-1 lead.

As the clock wound toward zero, the Tar Heels rose to the moment. First year Nils Bruening scored off a Winn pass and sent the Fetzer faithful into a frenzy. For the third time in five games, the Tar Heels took extra time to get a decision.

In the second 10-minute period of overtime, Melo fired a curler into the box that found Tucker Hume's head first, and the back of the net, next. The Tar Heels weren't ready to go home just yet.

Who stood out?

Walker Hume proved why he is one of the best two-way players in the nation, Sunday evening. He anchored the Tar Heel defense at center back and led the Tar Heels with six shots. His 6-foot-5 frame is havoc-wreaking for opposing defenses and his relentless intensity was on full display during UNC's 10 corner kicks. His twin brother Tucker Hume didn't have a bad night, either, scoring two goals, including the game winner.

James Pyle ranked second nationally with a 0.45 goals-against-average, but gave up two goals to the Eagles, which tied for a season high. Both Florida Gulf Coast goals were in one-on-one situations, where no UNC defenders could help Pyle, so it's hard to blame him for either of the Eagle goals. The best defense in the nation was backbreaking for 95 percent of the game, but made a pair of poor decisions that would cost them a pair of goals.

When was it decided?

It was over just seconds before Tucker Hume threw his jersey into the air as he sprinted for the corner of the field. 

The redshirt senior, known for his knack to be in the right place in the right time in the box, beat Florida Gulf Coast goalkeeper Jared Brown to keep the Tar Heels season alive. His header came with 5:05 left on the clock, and without it, the Tar Heels were headed for penalty kicks, which had cost them their season two years in a row.

Why does it matter?

For obvious reasons, this game mattered immensely for UNC, as a loss would have ended their season. But aside from the apparent ramifications, UNC was 2-2-1 in its last five contests and had only mustered four goals, including three shutouts. 

Needless to say, the Tar Heels were in dire need of an offensive spark. And although UNC didn't break the scoreboard with a crooked number, the shot column proved the Tar Heels had found some mojo in the offensive third, finishing with 28 shots and 10 corner kicks.

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Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels will take on the Syracuse Orange in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The date and time of the game have yet to be determined.