In its first game in the new UNC Soccer & Lacrosse Stadium, the No. 6 North Carolina men’s soccer team (0-0-1) escaped a 2-0 deficit to tie Creighton, 2-2, in the first game of the the Carolina Nike Classic on Friday.
It was not an ideal start for the Tar Heels. After UNC conceded a foul near the edge of the box in the 18th minute, the Blue Jays took advantage of their first solid opportunity. Senior Yudai Tashiro buried the ball into the top corner of the goal, giving Creighton a 1-0 lead.
In the 31st minute, Creighton added its second goal of the game to take a surprising 2-0 lead. Redshirt first-year Dominic Briggs received a cross from senior Ziyad Fares to tap the ball into the open goal.
North Carolina emerged from the locker room with a new energy, keeping the game close to Creighton’s goal. After a few more chances in the box, they were finally able to convert. During the 52nd minute, senior Mauricio Pineda received a deflected ball and tucked it into the bottom left corner.
UNC’s relentless pressure was able to get them the tying goal in the 68th minute. Junior Alex Rose scored a powerful header off of a well-placed cross from senior Jelani Pieters.
Who stood out?
Pineda was a huge part of the second half comeback. He made plays all over the field, including the goal that cut the Creighton lead to one.
His leadership showed throughout the match. He motivated the players around him, passing his high level of play onto them.
Pineda spoke with encouragement about the way the team played in the second half.
“We got in the locker room and just talked it out. We just had to pick it up,” he said. “That wasn’t us in the first half and we came out and showed who we are."
When was it decided?
Pineda’s goal proved to be the play that shifted the momentum in North Carolina’s favor. The Tar Heels were the more aggressive team in the second half, pouring the pressure on to Creighton’s back line. After missing on so many chances, seeing one go in was what the team needed to spur a comeback.
Why does it matter?
UNC comes into the 2019 season with very high expectations. The team is ranked No. 6 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll and are the favorites to win the ACC Championship. It was also the team’s first regular season match in the brand new stadium, adding another element of anticipation.
All of the energy and excitement felt was quickly dampened by Creighton’s early two-goal lead. Last season, North Carolina only conceded multiple goals in the same match on one occasion.
The Tar Heels showed a lot of perseverance, fighting their way back to tie the game. But head coach Carlos Somoano felt like the team could have done a better job of capitalizing on the momentum.
“It’s a little disappointing because we hit the target there in the second half, we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, and then we just stopped,” he said.
When do they play next?
On Sunday at 7:30 p.m., North Carolina will host UCF in its final game of the Carolina Nike Classic.
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