The No. 5 North Carolina men’s soccer team struggled on Sunday afternoon as it tied a winless N.C. State team.
The Tar Heels started the season strong with wins over Duke and No. 3 Clemson but have now finished the last three games poorly, failing to score in overtime in all three. North Carolina has now failed to win its last three games, with each match seeing at least one overtime. The first of the three games was a loss versus then-No. 1 Wake Forest.
Sunday's game, which finished in a 0-0 draw, was a physical battle plagued by fouls and turnovers. Neither team could get much of anything going on offense until overtime, when the Tar Heels had two shots ricochet off of the post at the beginning of the first of two overtime periods.
UNC was coming off of an exciting 3-3 tie versus No. 3 Clemson Tigers on Oct. 27. The goals, which flooded in for the Tar Heels during the second half on Tuesday, were nowhere to be found, leaving North Carolina without a win since Oct. 9 against Clemson.
As of late, it looks like the Tar Heels are having deja vu of last season. In 2019, North Carolina won seven of its first 11 matches before spiraling to a 7-7-4 record that meant missing the NCAA Tournament. After an impressive upset over the Tigers at the start of this season, UNC has been trending downward with three straight winless matches.
“(It's) kind of disappointing. Nobody could make anything happen on the offensive side,” UNC head coach Carlos Somoano said. “I think we are working hard. The guys are working hard. Obviously, our defense is still pretty solid and resilient, we haven’t conceded a lot of goals this year.”
The defense, clearly a bright spot for both teams on Sunday, is led by Filippo Zattarin, a graduate transfer student. Zattarin, who was named a United Soccer Coaches Player of the Week earlier this month, played all 110 minutes in the ugly draw.
“It was a tough game. We had our chances in the first half, second half and especially overtime. We hit the post twice. I thought they were a very physical team. There were a lot of big guys,” Zattarin said. “The team held well defensively.”
There were an impressive 25 fouls in the match, 16 by N.C. State. The Wolfpack were awarded three yellow cards for their worst infractions. The Raleigh team struggled with six offsides penalties, which halted several of their most promising chances.
Another bright spot for the Tar Heels on Sunday was sophomore midfielder Victor Olofsson, who unexpectedly played 103 minutes after starter Tim Schels was injured early in the first half. Those 103 minutes were nearly double what Olofsson played against Clemson on Oct. 27.
“I thought it was a tough game, they were very physical,” Olofsson said. “We played good for moments, but we had a hard time in the last third (of the field).”
The Tar Heels, playing a shortened season due to COVID-19, scrimmaged the Wolfpack at the beginning of the season. That game ended in a 1-0 win for UNC, who outshot N.C. State 16-4. The rematch was much more even, with UNC leading in shots 11-10.
UNC’s regular season finale, and last chance to turn its season around before postseason play, is Nov. 6 against rival Duke.
"(We'll) keep working hard, get better, see if we can score a goal next game would be nice," Somoano said.
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