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Season preview: Lindley hopes to lead UNC men's soccer to postseason redemption

<p>The North Carolina men's soccer team celebrates an overtime win over Providence in the 2016 NCAA Elite Eight.</p>
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The North Carolina men's soccer team celebrates an overtime win over Providence in the 2016 NCAA Elite Eight.

A missed chance will drive the players on the North Carolina men's soccer team this season.

After a second consecutive ACC Coastal Division title, UNC made it to the College Cup in 2016 but fell short of advancing to the NCAA Title game after a nail-biting penalty kick loss to Stanford. This season, a recruiting class that comes in at No. 2 in the nation adds some fuel to the fire.

Here’s what to expect from the No. 4 Tar Heels, who open their 2017 season against No. 12 Providence at Elon University on Friday --- the same team they defeated a year ago to advance to the College Cup.

Somoano and the seniors

After being named as head coach of North Carolina in 2011, Carlos Somoano led the team to a national championship in his first season.

Now entering his seventh season, Somoano is the active leader among Division I head coaches with a .758 winning percentage. With the bar set high for the Tar Heels in the 2017 season, there's plenty of reason to believe the Tar Heels can make a run for the national title under Somoano’s leadership. 

Somoano has a potent senior class at his disposal, boasting the likes of Alan Winn, David October, Drew Murphy and Zach Wright. These older leaders offer Somoano an opportunity to ease the recruiting class into the competitive ACC. Despite the loss of 2017 seniors Walker Hume, Tucker Hume and Colton Storm, the team brings back immense depth which can fill the leadership roles on offense and defense, along with returning starting goalkeeper James Pyle.

Youth movement

Sophomore midfielder Cam Lindley returns as the 2016 ACC Freshman of the Year, first team All-ACC member and TopDrawerSoccer’s 2016 National Freshman of the Year. Lindley started all 21 matches for the Tar Heels and was tied for third most assists in the ACC with seven during the 2016 season. Lindley is currently on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and was most recently named to the 2017 Preseason Best XI Teams by TopDrawerSoccer.

First-year defender John Nelson is a fresh face that is expected to immediately impact the back line for the Tar Heels. Nelson was the No. 1 player in the 2017 signing class by College Soccer News and was recently named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List along with Lindley. With his experience as a U.S. National Team participant, Nelson is prepared to make an immediate impact. 

A return to the Cup?

Although North Carolina lost a key senior group that led the team to the College Cup run in 2016, if the Tar Heels highly-touted recruiting class blends well with the returning depth, the Tar Heels won't have any problem defending their top five preseason ranking.

While it may be challenging to initially mold the talent of the incoming first-year class with an already experienced team, North Carolina’s roster could be hoisting its first championship title since 2011 at the end of this season.


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