CARY — Just into the second minute of the game, a yellow card to junior Mauricio Pineda brought out the intensity of the North Carolina men's soccer team.
The reaction of the crowd and players to that moment reenergized the No. 3 Tar Heels, who beat Clemson, 2-0, at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday night. It was their first home game in 20 days, but turned out to be the sixth straight win in a row.
This aggressive style of play continued as both teams traded possessions without any shots on goal.
About 20 minutes into the first half, senior Nils Bruening gained possession of the ball down the line and crossed it to sophomore Giovanni Montesdeoca, who put the ball into the back of the net for the Tar Heels first goal of the night.
“I’ve worked on my finishing," said Montesdeoca, who took two more shots in the first half. "It was something coach emphasized over the summer, and it was something I wanted to improve on coming into this year.”
Montesdeoca's goal was the first shot of the game and the only one of the first half. The Tar Heels (7-1, 3-0 ACC) prevented Clemson from taking any shots on goal in the period.
In the second half, UNC came out intent to continue the dominance — with an aggressive attack that kept the ball in its possession more than in the first half.
“You have 15 minutes to refocus at halftime," Bruening said. "Maybe that helped us to come out stronger. I feel like we had a decent effort first half as well, but probably the first five minutes after halftime were really good.”
The break at halftime gave the team everything it needed to put the game away.
Midway through the second period, the Tar Heels scored their second goal of the night. In the 58th minute, first-year Milo Garvanian crossed the ball into the box for Montesdeoca, who headed it into the back of the goal to take a 2-0 lead.
The Tar Heels' aggression declined after boosting their lead, allowing Clemson more opportunities and a chance to take one of its only shots of the game. Nonetheless, the UNC's defense gave up no goals in the game and goalie James Pyle saved the only shot on target of the contest.
The win was the team's third consecutive shutout bringing the total to 383 minutes without allowing a goal.
“I’m pleased," head coach Carlos Somoano said. "Clemson is a handful, so I think us coming out and being able to execute the game plan was positive. Anytime you can get an ACC win you did something right.”
With the season now in full-swing after a pause due to Hurricane Florence, the Tar Heels are hitting their stride in the middle of ACC play.
“We’re going back to what we did well last season: pressing well, keeping the ball," Bruening said. "It was a team effort today and I was glad to see everyone having fun out there. I’m just happy we have another clean sheet.”
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.