The North Carolina men’s soccer team (3-3-2, 3-1-2 ACC) lost 1-0 to Liberty University (4-0-1) on Thursday evening, in what was UNC's first game back since losing in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament in November.
UNC’s offense had the upper hand on Liberty in the first half, outshooting the Eagles, 4-1. In the 37th minute, graduate transfer defender Filippo Zattarin had UNC’s only shot on goal — a kick placed in the bottom-center, which Liberty goalkeeper Danny Cordero was able to save. The Tar Heels had two more chances with shots in the 44th and 45th minutes, but were unable to find the back of the net.
Liberty’s offense came alive in the second period, and they were able to turn the momentum of the match by outshooting the Tar Heels, 6-4. Forward Noah Holmes put the Eagles on the board in the 52nd minute with a goal which was assisted by midfielder Marko Mitrevski. Liberty had a second shot on goal in the 72nd minute, but this time junior goalkeeper Alec Smir was able to get to the ball for the save.
Despite ending the game with an advantage in the shots, corner kicks and foul categories, UNC was ultimately unable to secure the victory.
Who stood out?
For UNC, sophomore forward Jonathan Jimenez, junior midfielder Milo Garvanian and first-year midfielder Yaya Bakayoko all led the team in shots, each with two. Zattarin, who had the Tar Heels’ only shot on goal, continued to show his worth on both offense and defense.
Holmes, with his goal, was the star of the game for Liberty. Cordero continued his dominance in goal for the Eagles, notching his fifth straight shutout on the season.
When was it decided?
The lone goal of the match ended up being the deciding factor. Mitrevski was able to break away from his defender and make his way down the side of the pitch, finding Holmes with a perfectly placed long pass. Holmes, directly in front of the goal, was able to settle the ball and knock it in off of the left post.
Why does it matter?
This loss was UNC’s first to Liberty in program history, and it's certainly not a favorable start to the spring season for a team looking to prove themselves before the NCAA College Cup in May. The Tar Heels will have to play much better next week if they want to beat a Pittsburgh team that was the runner-up in the ACC tournament in the Fall.
This was also UNC’s first game since their star defender Matt Constant was drafted by Sporting KC in the MLS SuperDraft in January. As the season goes on, UNC’s defense will have to find ways to fill the void left by Constant’s absence.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on Pittsburgh on Friday, March 5 at Dorrance Field.
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