A top-five matchup saw the No. 5 North Carolina men’s soccer team (2-1-1, 2-1-1 ACC) visit No. 3 Clemson (5-1-1, 3-1-1 ACC) on Tuesday night in a shootout that ended with a 3-3 draw after two overtime periods.
Clemson’s approach was to win midfield duels and find runners in behind UNC’s high defensive line. That resulted in the best chance of the first half, where Clemson winger Grayson Barber ran in behind and closed in on a one-on-one with UNC goalkeeper Alec Smir. Smir showed supreme reflexes for an impressive save off his leg.
UNC’s best chance of the first half was a free kick near the box curled over the bar by forward Santiago Herrera. Soon enough, it was 0-0 at halftime, with Clemson having created two shots on goal to UNC’s zero.
The start of the second half saw both teams create a golden chance near the six-yard box and somehow not score. Tigers forward Kimarni Smith broke the deadlock in the 59th minute, though, drawing a foul near the box, taking the free kick and sending a low drive under the Tar Heels' wall of defenders and into the bottom corner.
And 1-0 became 2-0 for Clemson after just 36 seconds.
Barber once again got in behind the defense and lost control in the box, but Smith cleaned up the mess and found the back of the net for his and Clemson’s second score.
After the second goal, UNC pressed with more intensity. Crucial to their newfound energy was forward Key White, who won the ball from Clemson’s Justin Malou, drove into the box and curled the ball into the inside of the side netting to make it 2-1 after 65 minutes.
On increasing intensity, UNC head coach Carlos Somoano said the 2020 season's thinner schedule has its pros, but the difficulty of becoming 100 percent sharp for 90 minutes is a con.
“It’s taking us the first half (of games) to get up to speed,” he said.
Somoano also said White has improved on being active in more parts of the game other than just scoring.
“We saw that it was a good time to get him in the game since he’s shown that improvement,” he said. “If he can get up to speed in those areas, there’s a huge payoff.”
UNC kept the intensity up, routinely forcing turnovers out of the Clemson backline. Six minutes later, one such turnover led to forward Giovanni Montesdeoca breaking free for a low cross to forward Lucas del Rosario, who converted to make it 2-2 after 71 minutes.
Six minutes after that, Clemson scored a third goal to regain the lead. Yet again, Barber darted in behind the high UNC line, rounded Smir and scored.
With three minutes left, Clemson conceded a free kick from a deep position out wide. UNC midfielder Milo Garvanian sent the long ball, and defender Matt Constant headed it into the box to find Herrera for another equalizer.
Both teams had a chance for a winner at the end of regulation. Clemson conceded another free kick, Montesdeoca’s shot hit the wall and Clemson won the loose ball and countered, eventually forcing another crucial Smir reflex save. After six goals in the second half, the match was headed for overtime.
But after that explosion of goals in the second frame, neither side got a shot off in overtime. The only flashpoint came near the end of the first OT period when Clemson forward Mohamed Seye was sent off after colliding with Smir in what the ref deemed a reckless challenge.
Who stood out?
Herrera scored the tying goal with less than three minutes left in regulation to send the game into overtime. After spending last season making appearances off the bench in his first season with UNC following a transfer from UCLA, the senior forward is making even more of an impact this year with two goals in four matches.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels’ first tie of the season puts them at 2-1-1 with seven points on the season, third-best of the five-school ACC South Region.
When do they play next?
UNC's next game is on Sunday at 1 p.m. when the Tar Heels play N.C. State at home. Somoano said it was important for the team to start games with the same intensity they showed in the second half against the Tigers.
“I think that’s gonna be our challenge: making sure we’re up to speed Sunday against N.C. State," he said.
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