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Tuesday October 4th

UNC men's soccer team misses chances, ties Mount Olive in exhibition match

<p>Junior midfielder Ahmad Al-Qaq (34) dribbles the ball towards the Mount Olive goal. UNC tied 1-1 against Mount Olive on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022</p>
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Junior midfielder Ahmad Al-Qaq (34) dribbles the ball towards the Mount Olive goal. UNC tied 1-1 against Mount Olive on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022

The No. 24 North Carolina men’s soccer team tied the Mount Olive Trojans, 1-1, Monday night at Finley North Turf. 

What happened?

Both teams went back and forth in the contest’s early goings until the Trojans found an opening in North Carolina's back line. A lofting pass looked to open up a Mount Olive scoring chance, but redshirt freshman goalkeeper Andrew Cordes crept out of the box to boot the ball out of bounds.

In the eighth minute, UNC earned its first corner of the day. Sophomore forward Luc Granitur blasted a right-side shot but his boot was met by a wall of Trojan defenders. 

Three minutes later, Granitur drew a Mount Olive penalty in the box to give the Tar Heels a prime chance to get on the board early. Junior midfielder Ahmad Al-Qaq twisted the free chance into the bottom left corner of the goal to give UNC the lead, 1-0. 

North Carolina continued to ramp up the pressure with two corner kicks in the 36th minute. On the second attempt, first-year defender Charlie Harper's leaping kick nearly doubled UNC’s lead, but sophomore goalkeeper Alex Engren’s diving save pushed the ball left of the goal. 

In the second half, North Carolina continued to find opportune scoring chances. 

The Tar Heels’ second penalty-kick shot came after another Trojan foul in the box, but Al-Qaq failed to score his second goal of the night. Moments later, North Carolina earned another penalty shot — an attempt Engren would punch wide of the goal. 

UNC’s offensive woes came back to haunt the Tar Heels in the 87th minute. Mount Olive drew the first North Carolina foul in the goal box, and senior midfielder Pedro Franca sent home the equalizer with his penalty-kick goal.

Mount Olive’s late-game stinger proved to be the game’s final scoring play, and the contest ended in a draw. 

Who stood out? 

In the low-scoring affair, every scoring opportunity was magnified. Granitur’s physicality in the Trojans’ box helped earn UNC’s first penalty kick, leading to North Carolina’s lone goal of the match. 

With the departure of many fifth-year seniors from last season, junior midfielder Yaya Bakayoko has emerged as an early leader of this year’s team. The Bronx, N.Y. native’s speed and communication led to multiple Mount Olive turnovers in UNC’s end of the field. 

When was it decided?

Al-Qaq’s early penalty-kick goal helped give the Tar Heels a leg up in the early goings of the game. North Carolina would continue to put pressure on the Trojans in the first half but failed to increase its lead.

The second half mirrored the same result, with UNC earning multiple free and corner kick chances. However, the Tar Heels failed to land any of its opportunities in the back of the net, and Franca’s late goal for the Trojans led to the exhibition ending in a tie. 

Why does it matter?

With the tie, the Tar Heels fail to sweep its two home exhibition games. Many of the questions surrounding this year’s squad have yet to be answered, namely UNC’s search for a go-to option in its attacking line. 

UNC’s offensive struggles were exposed against the Trojans, as North Carolina converted just one of its three penalty kick attempts. Scoring one goal scored despite numerous chances is something the Tar Heels will need to address before the start of the regular season next week.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will hit the road to conclude its exhibition schedule against James Madison. Friday night’s bout is set to start at 7:30 p.m.

@evanr0gers

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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