After allowing four goals to Pittsburgh on Friday, the No. 16 North Carolina men's soccer team regained its footing defensively, holding Campbell to zero shots in Tuesday's 1-0 victory.
A goal from junior Cameron Fisher in the 82nd minute was all that was needed to secure the win in the defensive battle. Fisher is now tied with sophomore Ernest Bawa for the team lead in goals, with three each so far this season.
However, sophomore Riley Thomas noted that he felt the team’s spacing was off and that the team was late on a couple of reads. While UNC put up a strong defensive performance, there still seems to be room for improvement.
“I feel like they had a decent amount of chances or decent close offside calls,” Thomas said. “I feel like we still have a long way to go in terms of finding our spacing and finding our time.”
Fisher praised the team for being able to work together to create a reliable defensive front.
“I think as a team, we worked hard defensively and offensively to create chances,” Fisher said. “They didn't have a shot, so that's obviously good defensively, but it was totally a team win."
Head coach Carlos Somoano said that he was proud of the team’s performance. He noted that the team is going through a transition right now, as well as facing some significant injuries.
“I'm really proud that even though maybe we're not playing as fluid or as clean as we like, we still found ways to just find little victories in the game, little edges, and didn't get consumed with the fact that it's not all coming together,” Somoano said. “Just because we're not playing awesome right now doesn't mean we can't win a game.”
Despite a slow — and at times, sloppy — first half, the Tar Heels were able to clean things up and take back some control in the second half.
Somoano said that he is still trying to figure out what the lineup is, and that a lot of players saw the field that don’t normally get a chance.
“When you do that, you can expect that you're going to have some bumps early in the game, and then you try to build momentum,” he said.
The team did build momentum in the second half. After a Campbell player received a yellow card with less than 10 minutes remaining, Thomas took a free kick from midfield, sending the ball to the top of the box, where Fisher darted in front of a Campbell player to retrieve the pass and put the ball into the back of the net.
“I knew it was coming down to the moment of the game where we needed to get a chance,” Thomas said. “I feel like just getting it up there and giving the guys the opportunity up there was my main thought of concern.”
The Tar Heels will look to keep this momentum going into their next game against rival Duke.
But with 13 fouls from each team and three yellow cards for Campbell, Tuesday’s game was highly physical.
Somoano recognized the physicality, and with several previously injured players, he wants the team to be in a good state for the rivalry matchup.
“We’re gonna take a lot of recovery," Somoano said. "We're going to try to get guys physically in a better spot."
Somoano said he wants to focus on little adjustments in hopes that they add up to make a big difference moving forward. If the Tar Heels keep their momentum and show the grit and perseverance they did against Campbell, they could be a threat to Duke on Sunday.
“I think there's room for improvement everywhere — defensively, offensively, really everywhere,” Fisher said. "It's always a constant process of getting better and improving week in, week out.”
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