At the beginning of the season, the UNC men's soccer team looked poised to be successful, returning three of its top five goal scorers and having a number of promising additions — 12 first-years and six transfers — joining its ranks. After a disappointing second-round loss to New Hampshire last year in the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels were looking for redemption.
Instead, North Carolina has mustered a largely uninspired offensive performance that has propelled the Tar Heels to a 4-3-2 overall record and a 1-2-1 ACC record. After another disappointing loss to Clemson on Monday, it's clear that the offense is still struggling to find its footing.
Here's how UNC's offensive efforts stack up to those of previous years.
One of the defining factors of the 2022 team has been its consistently low game scores. Throughout the first nine games of the season, the Tar Heels have only been able to muster an average of .78 goals per game. UNC has been blanked in three matches this season and has scored just one goal in its last three games. In North Carolina's best effort of the year, its opening game against Air Force on Aug. 25, the Tar Heels registered just two goals.
Additionally, the 2022 roster has failed to produce clear offensive leaders. The team's only player with multiple goals is fifth-year midfielder and defender Milo Garvanian, who has three to his name — two of which have come from penalty goal attempts.
The 2021 UNC men's soccer team had a similar record through its first nine games (5-3-1, 1-2-0 ACC). However, in their first matchup, the Tar Heels put up a formidable score of 7-0 against Bucknell which set the tone for what would be a fairly high-scoring season, averaging around 1.7 goals per game.
In order to match the performances of the past, the Tar Heels will need to take more and higher percentage shots by adopting an aggressive and efficient approach to their offense.
Shooting percentage and shots taken
Many of the current team's issues with scoring stem from the lack of shots being taken. UNC currently has a shooting percentage of only 7.6 percent, highlighting its inability to seize scoring opportunities despite the presence of returning and new talent on the team.
While North Carolina has been able to skate by on its defensive prowess — holding opponents to a 9.2 percent shooting percentage — the team's record makes it clear that this offensive trend will not bode well in the long run.
In contrast, the UNC teams of the recent past have averaged shooting percentages well over 10 percent. The 2021 team averaged 11.7 percent, the 2019 team averaged 11.6 percent, and the 2017 squad recorded one of 18.3 percent.
Furthermore, the current team only averages 10.2 shots per game in comparison to last season's average of 14.6.
However, the current team has the ability to improve upon the previous team's records if they make a stronger effort to make strategic, well-placed shots that have a high percentage of making it into the goal.
The 2022 team's offensive struggles have been compounded with only four assists this season. They have found it difficult to set up shots, contributing to their low scoring and shooting averages.
Last season, the team tallied 14 assists in the first nine games of the season, while the 2019 team totaled 18 in the same stretch.
This inability to place the ball in good situations offensively has been holding the current team back in comparison to past years and has resulted in a lack of offensive momentum.
To improve upon this, the Tar Heels will need to come together as a team and better their passing and assisting abilities. Additionally, senior leaders of the team need to step up and inspire the first-years to follow in their footsteps.
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