Despite scoring the game’s opening goal, the North Carolina men’s soccer team (6-4-4, 2-2-3 ACC) played to a draw against the Boston College Eagles (3-6-4, 1-4-2 ACC), 1-1, at the Newton Campus Soccer Field.
North Carolina would strike first in its third-straight away bout. After a Boston College foul set up a set piece for the Tar Heels, junior forward Ernest Bawa’s twirling boot found the head of junior forward Akiem Clarke, who gave UNC an early lead.
Securing the night’s first goal appeared to give the Tar Heel sideline a spark in the tilt’s early goings, but the Eagles would respond.
In the 26th minute, a costly foul by Clarke would award the Eagles a free kick deep in their attacking third. Boston College would pay off the set piece, as senior forward Stefan Sigurdarson’s header snuck past redshirt first-year goalie Andrew Cordes.
Despite relinquishing its early lead, North Carolina continued to pressure the Eagles’ back line. The Tar Heels would tally three shots in the back half of the first period — including a point-blank blast from Clarke that nearly found the back of the net. But UNC would come up empty and entered the half tied with Boston College at one goal apiece.
Out of the break, the possession-dominant first half by the Tar Heels failed to carry over.
The Eagles would come out on the attack in the final 45 minutes and blast six shots — three of which were on goal. Yet Cordes remained stout and denied every Boston College chance, leading North Carolina to a 1-1 tie against the Eagles.
Who stood out?
The connection between Clarke and Bawa has sparked North Carolina’s attack in the later part of the season. The two juniors connected again against the Eagles for the Tar Heels’ lone goal, marking a second straight conference contest in which the two forwards were involved in a fruitful play.
Moreover, fifth-year Milo Garvanian slotted into the defensive midfielder role for the injured Tim Schells. Schells missed his first start of the season against the Eagles after exiting the Tar Heels’ previous match against Elon due to injury. In his absence, Garvanian held down the middle of North Carolina's defending unit, before the team caption entered the game in the second half.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels opened up an early lead after Clarke drilled a header in off of North Carolina’s second set piece of the night. With UNC’s defensive track record — a unit that has surrendered an average of less than one goal per contest — North Carolina’s chances of a win looked promising.
But the Eagles would respond with a header of their own, as Sigurdarson found the equalizer off a Boston College free kick halfway through the first half. Sigurdarson’s ninth goal of the season proved to be the final scoring play of the night, and the two team’s settled for a draw.
Why does it matter?
Entering the match, both team’s sat toward the bottom of the ACC with one week remaining in the regular season. UNC saw itself slated seventh in the conference — one tick above the eight-team threshold to host at least one contest in the ACC tournament.
A win against the Eagles would have nearly secured the Tar Heels at least one home game in the postseason, but with the tie, North Carolina will have to wait out the rest of the ACC slate and its season finale against Virginia.
Moreover, head coach Carlos Somoano made it clear that he understood the Tar Heels sit right on the NCAA tournament bubble heading into the final week of regular season play. Knowing this, the importance of every win for North Carolina heightens, and drawing against a squad that only has one conference win this season serves as a missed opportunity for UNC.
When do they play next?
North Carolina closes out its road trip on Tuesday when the Tar Heels travel to take on William & Mary. UNC’s final nonconference tilt is set to kick off at 6 p.m.
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