WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It’s easy to look at recent ACC performances for North Carolina men’s soccer and say the offense is struggling.
Saturday’s 1-0 loss at No. 4 Wake Forest marked three straight conference games in which the Tar Heels failed to score. The streak hearkens back to last season when UNC averaged the second-fewest goals and the third-fewest shots per game in the ACC.
So, is UNC's offense sputtering? Not so fast.
North Carolina's top two goalscorers, graduate forwards Quenzi Huerman and Martin Vician, have each already scored more goals than anyone on last season’s team managed all year. On Saturday, a robust Wake Forest defense simply stonewalled the duo, and UNC ended up on the wrong side of another ACC shut-out after a second-half goal from the Demon Deacons.
“Our guys are used to training if it's 10 field players versus 13 in a press to make it as hard as you possibly can to replicate how well and how hard Carolina [works],” Wake Forest head coach Bobby Muuss said. “I mean, they're resilient. They continue to work for 90 minutes to try to get numbers to the ball and behind the ball.”
Against Wake, UNC troubled the Demon Deacons with pressure high up the pitch. The Tar Heels ramped up their high press and pinned Wake Forest back for extended periods in the second half.
Muuss acknowledged that UNC press after the game and said he would have liked his team to play more forward to combat the aggression. Wake Forest defender Prince Amponsah echoed his coach's sentiment and said the Demon Deacons aren’t used to having as little of the ball as they did.
Despite the Tar Heels’ press consistently winning the team entry into Wake’s final third, North Carolina's offensive efforts were almost entirely unproductive. UNC created only seven shots all game — just over half its season average of 13.5 shots per game — largely due to Wake locking up the Tar Heels' wingers.
UNC couldn’t find crosses into the box for the 6-foot-4-inch Vician to latch onto, and Wake denied the normally shifty Huerman any angles to cross.