The No. 3 North Carolina men’s soccer team opened its 2018 season on Friday night with a 1-0 win over East Tennessee State University in Greensboro.
The Tar Heels (1-0) had some goal-scoring opportunities early on, despite a zero filling up the stat sheet in the first half. In the ninth minute, junior forward Jelani Pieters had back-to-back opportunities at the net, but he was unable to finish on either attempt.
Beyond Pieters’ chances, neither side threatened much in the first half. North Carolina only recorded three more shots throughout the period, and ETSU (0-1) only had one shot for the entire 45 minutes.
But the Tar Heels came out firing in the second half. After one missed opportunity in the 49th minute, UNC drew a corner kick in the 51st minute. Senior midfielder Nils Bruening got his head on the delivered ball, but it sailed over the post.
After a series of shots by ETSU, UNC finally broke through in the 80th minute. Pieters buried a header on a pass from midfielder Mauricio Pineda, giving the Tar Heels a 1-0 advantage. On the night, UNC outshot its opponent by a margin of 10 to seven, with four shots on goal compared to just two from the Buccaneers.
Head coach Carlos Somoano's squad fought off ETSU’s attempt at a late comeback bid, to secure its first win of the season.
Who stood out?
Pieters was the hero for North Carolina on Friday night. The forward recorded three shots on goal, netting the last one to give the Tar Heels a victory. The Illinois native will be a big part of UNC’s game plan this year after he finished second on the team with 25 points and led the team with four game-winning goals in 2017.
Why does it matter?
After getting eliminated by Indiana in the 2017 College Cup semifinal, it was important for North Carolina to open 2018 with a win, and it did just that. Despite not converting on all of their chances, the Tar Heels played well enough to grab a victory.
UNC will now have a chance to get a bit of revenge for last season. The Tar Heels play No. 2 Indiana on Sunday in a rematch of last year's semifinal.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels next take action on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. when they host the Hoosiers at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. After facing Indiana, UNC will travel to Williamsburg, Va., to face William & Mary on Aug. 31.
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