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Sharp crossing and solid spacing led UNC to a hot season opener against Bucknell

UNC graduate midfielder Chris Sullivan (41) attempts a goal at the game against Bucknell on Thursday, August 26th, 2021 at Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels won 7-0.

After the No 4. North Carolina men's soccer team scored its third goal against Bucknell in the 21st minute of Thursday's match, it was obvious that the team had gotten off to a blazing start. 

But the fashion in which they did so shows the level of chemistry and unselfishness that this UNC men’s soccer team already has so early in the season.

The first three goals each consisted of an assist from a cross and a one-touch finish from the scoring player. Junior midfielder Cameron Fisher was involved in two of these goals, with his goal in the 14th minute being a textbook finish — a poised but powerful volley off of a high-flying pass from sophomore midfielder Tim Schels.

“Tim just saw where I was making a run in behind,” Fisher said. “The left back kinda just stepped up a bit so I kind of just moved in behind, and then just hit it one touch to the goalie’s near post.”

As great as Schels' cross was, Fisher played his role perfectly to fill in the hole behind the defender, receive his teammate’s cross and get a shot on target.

The Tar Heels' passing against Bucknell was crisp. They were patient. But their crosses were successful because their spacing spread out the Bison defense and created lanes for attackers to make runs toward the goal.

If anyone knows the significance of spacing to convert in the attacking third, its 11th year head coach Carlos Somoano.

“Spacing in general is important to us, and I think it’s more take what they give you,” Somoano said. "I think they were playing very narrow and very tight in the middle of the field giving us the flanks."

Crossing and spacing go hand-in-hand, evidenced by graduate midfielder Chris Sullivan, who scored his two goals of the night by filling in gaps and creating good spacing.

“We preach that the extra pass is important, but more than that, it’s just getting in the right spots,” Sullivan said. “You never know like if it’s gonna deflect or the keeper is gonna make a save, so even if you think that your job’s over, it’s just worth making the extra effort to get to the right spot.”

The third Tar Heel goal came off a Fisher assist. After his corner kick got knocked back out to him by a Bison defender, he regrouped and whipped another ball back into the box with fifth-year Santiago Herrera as the recipient. 

Herrera leaped and headed the ball toward the far post, where the keeper had no chance of saving it — making the game 3-0 and practically out of reach for Bucknell.

“Being unselfish, doing the extra pass, swing it across goal and it pays off as you can see,” Fisher said. 

This philosophy of making the extra pass has been a huge focus for Fisher and his teammates, and by making the smart play, he helped seal the game for North Carolina.

All of the successes in UNC’s season opener lead to one simple quality a team must have to execute: teamwork. Although Somoano has several players returning from last season, he said he believes his team has already bought into each other to put a better product out onto the field.

“When you get to a place where you start playing for the team and not playing for minutes right, you contribute more,” Somoano said.

With six different players scoring and five getting assists, this season opener is emblematic of the level of cohesion and effort the men’s soccer team is striving for this year.

“It was a total team effort,” Fisher said.


@dthsports |