In the season opener, the No. 24 North Carolina men’s soccer team (1-0) defeated the Air Force Falcons (0-1), 2-1, Thursday night at Dorrance Field.
From the first kick, UNC quickly established itself on the offensive end. In the fourth minute, senior midfielder Cameron Fisher blasted a shot steps outside of the goalie box, but a Falcon deflection sent his shot wayward.
Milo Garvanian sent in a hooking cross in the same minute that looked to be promising for North Carolina. However, the graduate midfielder's chip sailed inches above junior forward Akeim Clarke’s header attempt.
After spending most of the early goings in North Carolina’s attacking third, Air Force devised a fruitful counter. The Falcons capitalized on miscommunication within UNC’s back line to set up a two-on-zero breakaway opportunity.
With no Tar Heel defender in sight, junior forward Thaddaeus Dewing gingerly dribbled inside the box and chipped in the game’s first goal.
Despite the early blow, North Carolina’s aggressive attack continued. Yet, numerous corner and free kick attempts resulted in no goals for the Tar Heels — who looked to be heading into the half down a goal.
After a pair of late-half substitutions, the Tar Heels found the back of the net. Redshirt junior forward Key White blitzed past the Falcon defense, and sent a cross that ricocheted to Garvanian. With one touch, the Albuquerque, N.M. native’s left-footed boot tied the contest up.
White stamped his name on the match with just over a minute remaining in the half. Garvanian’s cross-pitch pass set up White in the open field, who raced past a pair of Air Force defenders before lasering his first goal, giving North Carolina a 2-1 lead.
Out of the break, UNC carried over its momentum generated by White’s late goal. In the 48th minute, White’s low-bouncing pass found the foot of first-year defender Benjamin Kabeya, whose blistering shot was punched wide of the mark.
The remainder of the contest featured both teams trading short possessions, with neither squad finding the back of the net. Despite the quiet second half, the Tar Heels prevailed victorious 2-1.
Who stood out?
Playing in his fifth season in Chapel Hill, Garvanian made sure to start his graduate season with a win. His one goal and assist earned him a team-high two points.
Moreover, White's speed off the bench helped North Carolina take the lead late in the first half. The redshirt junior forward raced past the Air Force defense on numerous occasions, including on his highlight-worthy goal where he split two Falcon defenders.
When was it decided?
The Falcons silenced the Tar Heel faithful early, as Dewing’s goal put North Carolina down one goal within the first four minutes of action.
Yet, North Carolina’s offense would not be denied. After multiple spirited attempts came up empty, a favorable deflection gave Garvanian a routine finish to tie up the contest. White’s goal shortly after gave the Tar Heels their first lead of the night — an advantage that would not be surrendered.
Why does it matter?
With the win, North Carolina remains undefeated in season-openers under head coach Carlos Somoano.
Coming into the year, the Tar Heels are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2021 season that saw North Carolina fail to advance past the NCAA Tournament's second round. With the mixture of returning experience and numerous new faces, UNC has the talent to surpass last season’s performance.
One of the key new faces for this year’s squad is graduate transfer Til Zinnhardt. The defender from Tulsa help correct North Carolina’s early defensive woes, a unit that looked stout after the Falcon’s quick goal.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels continue their home stand on Sunday when UNC takes on South Florida at 7:30 p.m.
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