In a physical rivalry bout, the North Carolina men’s soccer team (3-2-1, 0-1-1 ACC) tied the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (4-0-1, 1-0-1 ACC), 1-1, Friday night at Koskinen Stadium.
The two teams traded quick possessions early on, as neither squad managed to establish extended time in its attacking third. After the back-and-forth play, the Blue Devils ramped up their offensive pressure with an early corner kick.
Redshirt first-year goalie Andrew Cordes saved Duke’s corner attempt, but it wasn’t the last of the home team’s attack. Four minutes later, sophomore midfielder Ruben Mesalles sprinted to the outer edge of the goal box and found junior defender Amir Daley who chipped in the night’s first goal.
The Tar Heels responded quickly to their early deficit. Less than 30 seconds later, junior forward Akiem Clark’s one-touch boot found the back of the net to knot the contest up at one goal apiece.
The early fireworks displayed by teams turned into a defensive standstill. In the 42nd minute, sophomore forward Shakur Mohammed’s strike from just outside the 18-yard mark dribbled left of the mark. Duke’s late-half shot proved to be the first half’s final scoring opportunity for both teams.
Out of the break, fifth-year midfielder Milo Garvanian pressed Duke’s back line. His cross appeared to be on its way to finding a nearby Tar Heel, but graduate goalie Eliot Hamill leaped up and snagged the North Carolina cross.
Sophomore forward Jai Bean found himself with an open shot at the net after North Carolina turned the ball over deep in its territory. But Bean’s point-blank attempt was kicked away by a trailing UNC defender, keeping the contest tied at one.
Duke earned a free kick steps outside the goal box after a North Carolina foul. Looking to retake the lead, Mohammah’s strike lined into the heart of the UNC wall where it was eventually kicked out of the Blue Devils’ attacking zone.
Both teams continued to trade chances to find the game-deciding goal, but neither could capitizlie and the rivalry match would end in a draw.
Who stood out?
Clark’s presence in UNC’s attack gave the Tar Heels a spark offensively that has been absent this season. The junior forward’s first goal of the year helped quiet the Blue Devils’ early storm and erase North Carolina's hole.
The Tar Heels’ backline as a whole stood strong, despite a number of blows for Duke’s offense. In a game that saw the Blue Devils outshoot North Carolina by isx shots, UNC’s defense remained stout to secure the draw.
When was it decided?
Duke’s lead was short-lived in the first half, as the Tar Heels netted the equalizer 29 seconds after the Blue Devils' strike. Clark’s goal proved to be the night’s final scoring play, as neither team would find the back of the net for the remainder of the draw.
Why does it matter?
Throughout the year, North Carolina’s offense has been noticeably stagnant — with the Tar Heels scoring multiple goals in only one game this season. Even though UNC managed only one goal, its offense was more aggressive resulting in a quick answer to Duke’s goal in the 10th minute.
Moreover, working a draw with one of the top-ranked teams in the conference should give North Carolina momentum as it heads into the heart of ACC play.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels return home to Dorrance Field to take on UNC-Wilmington in a midweek bout. Tuesday night’s match is set to start at 7 p.m.
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