For the North Carolina men’s soccer team, the weight of expectation is nothing new.
The Tar Heels enter the 2019 season ranked No. 6 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, marking the ninth consecutive year in which head coach Carlos Somoano’s squad has entered the season ranked in the top 10. This comes as no surprise after a 2018 campaign in which UNC captured its fourth straight ACC Coastal Division championship and finished the season with a record of 14-4-1.
Despite these routine preseason accolades, this year’s team enters exhibition play with last year’s disappointing second round exit from the NCAA tournament still lingering on the minds of many. But a shimmering new stadium and 11 new roster additions have UNC primed to erase any doubts about their status as title contenders. Here’s what to expect from Somoano’s squad this season.
Returning to the field for their final season in Carolina Blue are seniors Jack Skahan and Mauricio Pineda.
Skahan brings offensive firepower to the Tar Heel attack. In his junior campaign, he netted seven goals and notched a career-high three assists on his way to a third-team All-ACC distinction.
Pineda, a defenseman and midfielder, is coming off of a stellar junior season where he was named a second-team United Soccer Coaches All-American and earned a first-team All-ACC selection. The standout from Bolingbrook, Illinois, was also named to both the 2019 ACC Preseason Watch List and the MAC Hermann Watch List. If Pineda captures the MAC Hermann Trophy, which honors the nation’s top collegiate soccer player, he would be the first male player in UNC history to do so.
After losing eight seniors last year, UNC is primed for a major reload of talent with this year’s incoming class. Made up of 10 first-years, TopDrawerSoccer has named Somoano’s new batch of players as the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, along with one sophomore transfer.