When asked about his knee injury, senior forward Nils Bruening — the one who scored two goals against Virginia Tech, including an 84th-minute game winner — couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“Which injury?” he asked.
Bruening overcame not one, but two ACL surgeries to get here. But to him and his teammates, not to mention the throng of Tar Heel fans in Durham on Saturday night, it was all worth it.
Bruening’s brace led the No. 3 North Carolina men’s soccer team (9-1, 4-0 ACC) to a 2-1 win over No. 19 Virginia Tech (6-4-2, 1-3-1 ACC) on Saturday, a crucial eighth straight victory that kept the Tar Heels the only undefeated team in ACC play. The night marked his first multi-goal game in over two years, with the last being a four-goal outing on Sept. 23, 2016 against Boston College.
Bruening’s first goal of the night came in the 21st minute thanks to a slick assist from junior forward Jelani Pieters, who beat his defender with a spin move before setting up Bruening for his fourth score of the year.
The Tar Heels seemingly added to their lead just minutes later with a goal from first-year midfielder Milo Garvanian, but the goal was disallowed after a UNC foul.
Head coach Carlos Somoano expressed his dissatisfaction with the referee's call and later apologized for his “temper tantrum” in the first half.
“Did you notice?” Somoano smirked. “The truth is, it’s not the way I should be behaving, and I appreciate the guys bailing me out in the second half because I think my energy wasn’t positive for my team in the first half. My job is to stay focused on what happens with the team, right or wrong.”
After a number of chances, Virginia Tech finally answered with 57 seconds left in the first half to tie the game, 1-1, entering halftime. The Hokies' goal ended a remarkable stretch of over four games and 517 minutes of play without North Carolina allowing a goal, with the last score allowed coming on Sept. 8 against Pitt.