In front of a packed student section at the UNC Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium on Friday night, the No. 14 North Carolina men’s soccer team (4-1-3, 2-1 ACC) suffered a disappointing 3-2 loss to rival Duke (5-3, 1-2 ACC). It was the first time since 2014 that the Tar Heels gave up more than two goals in a game.
In an eventful match, UNC took an early lead in the 18th minute thanks to an impressive run by senior forward Jack Skahan into the box. He beat multiple Duke defenders, then coolly passed the ball by the goalkeeper and across the box to junior forward Alex Rose, who tapped the ball into an open goal.
The Tar Heels scored another goal in the 26th minute when senior Jelani Pieters received a crisp pass from sophomore Milo Garvanian and beat the Duke goalkeeper to take a 2-0 lead.
The energy in the stadium didn’t last long, though, as Duke responded just 63 seconds later with a goal of its own. At halftime, UNC led the Blue Devils 2-1.
After the break, the Blue Devils would tie the game in the 58th minute thanks to a strike from Brandon Williamson.
The Duke downpour continued in the 63rd minute. Blue Devil forward Scotty Taylor got behind the North Carolina defense and easily finished a one-on-one opportunity to take a lead that would not be relinquished.
With the third goal, the normally solid Tar Heel defense gave up more goals than it had the entire season. In fact, this was the first time that UNC had given up three goals since Dec. 6, 2014, when they were eliminated by UCLA in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Who stood out?
Despite only playing 46 minutes, Rose shone in the defeat. He scored a goal and got two of his three total shots on goal.
On the other side, Duke’s most impressive player was Brandon Williamson. The Blue Devil midfielder scored one goal and recorded one assist on the night.
When was it decided?
It looked like the Tar Heels might tie it up when senior Mauricio Pineda took a free kick just outside the box in the 70th minute. The captain’s shot looked promising, but it banged off the crossbar to no avail for UNC.
After that, the Tar Heels didn’t get many chances. Duke finished the game with stellar defense, and took a 3-2 victory back to Durham.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina had a two goal lead just 25 minutes into the game – but after the Blue Devils scored three unanswered goals, the home team wasn't able to manufacture many chances.
The loss was also UNC's first in ACC play, and raises questions about UNC's ability to preserve an early lead.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on UNC-Wilmington on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
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