The No. 13 North Carolina men’s soccer team (5-0-5, 1-0-4 ACC) suffered its first loss of the season to No. 18 Syracuse (6-2-3, 2-1-2 ACC), 1-0, in a top-20 showdown Friday night at Dorrance field.
In 2022, Syracuse won the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship and defeated the Tar Heels 1-0 in the ACC Tournament — the only time the two met last season.
Early on, it looked to be a repeat of that game, as it was the Orange who dominated possession in the opening 20 minutes. UNC’s defense withstood a flurry of crosses into the box early, along with a poor clearance that led to a goal saving denial from sophomore keeper Andrew Cordes.
Eventually the Syracuse offensive build-up broke through in the 23rd minute, off of a corner kick goal from graduate defender Buster Sjoberg. His header trickled its way into the bottom corner of the net, after Tar Heel defender Parker O’Ferral barred Cordes from the ball, in a failed attempt to clear the shot.
“It was just completely reacting to scenarios,” head coach Carlos Somoano said. “Nobody went up and really attacked the first ball well enough, and then the ball bounced down [into the goal].”
UNC’s sloppy play while in possession continued throughout the remainder of the half and into the break, often losing the ball past midfield and struggling to create any attack. Syracuse held North Carolina’s offense to zero shots through the first 45 minutes, resulting in North Carolina’s first shotless half of the season.
“We didn’t play hard enough," Somoano said. "We didn’t close down the ball fast enough. We didn’t pass the ball fast enough, and then we were kind of just reacting to scenarios.”
A more settled Tar Heel team opened the second half with early shots from senior forward Ernest Bawa and junior defender Matt Edwards. The increased intensity allowed North Carolina’s defense to motion higher up the pitch, which offered moments for the front line to better press the Orange.
This spark from Bawa and Edwards brought forth the first real chances of the night for UNC. In the 65th minute, a free kick from the edge of the box came close to tying the contest. Graduate midfielder Quenzi Huerman curled a shot up and over the wall that glanced off the woodwork of the goal frame.