The No. 4 North Carolina men’s soccer team struggled mightily around the goal in its 1-1 draw against VCU Sunday night.
In a game where the Tar Heels took an astounding 50 shots compared to VCU's four attempts, their efforts ultimately did not result in victory.
After scoring seven goals in their season-opener against Bucknell, the back of the net was harder to find for head coach Carlos Somoano’s group Sunday night, although the opportunities were frequent.
“I feel like we could’ve scored nine goals today,” Somoano said. “We probably could have scored more than we scored against Bucknell. I am going to be a little bit hard on the guys right now, because they have to have a little more courage.”
It's still early in the season, but the Tar Heels will have to continue to get better around the net in order to maintain their top-ten ranking, considering the tough schedule that lies ahead.
Somoano’s squad fought hard the whole night in a physical contest against the Rams, which included three yellow cards, but Rams goalkeeper Mario Sequeira had a career night, saving 13 out of the Tar Heels' 14 shots on goal.
UNC showed toughness in fighting back from a 1-0 deficit that stretched long into the second period. The squad competed in two overtimes, but the fourth-ranked team's statistical performance did not translate well on the field.
Junior forward Jonathan Jimenez said the team has some work to do going forward to reach its full potential.
“To come back from a 1-0 deficit, it definitely shows a little bit of grit, but we could’ve beat them two or three to one,” Jimenez said. “We just have to do better – it’s not good enough. We went back into the locker room and coach is right, we need to finish our chances and be clinical in front of the goal.”
Although the struggles were prevalent for the Tar Heels offensively, they were able to capitalize on one of their opportunities late in the second period.
After watching his first shot rattle off the woodwork in the first period, sophomore midfielder Ernest Bawa connected with a strike to the bottom-left corner of the goal in the 83rd minute, breaking the Tar Heels' offensive drought. Bawa’s goal was a bright spot on a night where they were hard to come by, but the Illinois native said he was frustrated he could not do more.
“It always feels good to score, but I’m just glad I was able to help the team,” Bawa said. “I had several chances that I could have converted better, so I think there’s more that I can do and more that we can do to win the game.”
It is clear to the Tar Heels that they will need to do more with their opportunities going forward. Sunday night will serve as a good learning opportunity as they progress through the season.
On days that goals are harder to come by, the best teams tend to figure out how to score eventually. UNC proved they could find the net in that 7-0 demolition of a season-opener, but could not against the Rams. Somoano said offensive consistency will be key going forward.
“Soccer is a funny game,” Somoano said. “It's like that to some degree, but the top players and top teams turn half-chances into goals, and we turned clear chances into misses tonight.”
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