After winning 7-0 in their season opener against Bucknell, the No.4 UNC men’s soccer team (1-0-1, 0-0 ACC) drew a physical contest against the VCU Rams (1-0-1, 0-0 A-10) on Sunday night, 1-1.
The Tar Heels came out of the gates firing in the first period, taking 19 shots to go along with seven corner kicks, but VCU keeper Mario Sequeira was able to keep UNC off of the scoreboard with a stellar first half performance that included six saves. The Rams were limited in their opportunities all night due to some stellar defensive play by the Tar Heels, but they were able to capitalize on one of their few opportunities late in the first half when midfielder Damian Gallegos broke the tie at the 40-minute mark to give VCU a 1-0 advantage heading into halftime.
In the second period, the Tar Heels kept up the pressure, taking 26 more shots, and they were able to keep the Rams silent, holding them to no shots on goal. Although they had numerous opportunities to score, things were looking bleak for the Tar Heels heading into the final minutes of regulation, but sophomore midfielder Ernest Bawa was able to sneak one past Sequeira with roughly seven and a half minutes left to tie things up at 1-1. On a night where almost everyone struggled to find the back of the net, seven minutes wasn’t enough time for another goal, sending both teams to their first overtime match of the 2021 season.
The first overtime was quiet, with only one shot attempt by UNC which forced a second and final opportunity for a winner to emerge. Both teams battled it out in the second overtime, but the score remained even through 110 minutes, resulting in a 1-1 tie. Things got physical late, but neither team was able to use their grit to come out on top in a hard-fought matchup.
Who stood out?
Bawa led the way for the Tar Heels on offense, scoring their lone goal of the match in 40 minutes of action. Forwards Santiago Herrera, Jonathan Jimenez and Alex Rose also put some pressure on the Rams combining for six shots-on-goal. On the defensive side of the ball, it was a team effort for the Tar Heels, who only surrendered 2 shots-on-goal to the Rams.
Sequeira was the MVP of the match for the Rams, leading their defensive effort in the goal with 13 saves on 14 Tar Heel shots-on-goal. On the offensive side, Gallegos scored the lone goal for the Rams on his only opportunity of the night.
When was it decided?
Two overtimes couldn’t declare a winner after the two sides concluded the match with a 1-1 tie. The Tar Heels outshot the Rams with 12 more shots-on-goal but they couldn’t capitalize on enough of their opportunities to emerge victorious.
Why does it matter?
On a night where they struggled to find the back of the net, the Tar Heels were able to settle with a tie against a tough VCU squad that was fresh off of a 2-0 season-opening win on the road against No.7 Wake Forest. The Tar Heels were brought back down to earth after their offensive onslaught in their opener, but they were able to escape Dorrance Field without a loss on their early-season record. UNC will need to capitalize on more of their opportunities moving forward to remain a top-ten team, but it is still early enough in the season for improvements to be made around the goal.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will be back in action Friday night in Chapel Hill against the Georgia Southern Eagles. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Dorrance Field.
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