Here's To You, Mr. Robinson: Deacs, Heels Draw In Dramatic Fashion

Part I: Introduction and Official Recap/Highlights

What. A. Game.

Hi, my name is quzybuk, and I guess I'm the new official unofficial BSD soccer correspondent, for all of your Deac kickball action. You may remember me from "The Worst of BSD: Annoying GIFs in Game Threads" and "GrandTanyonSturtze's Greatest Hits: The Arguments, Volumes I-IV". In honor of my first official unofficial game recap, I decided to do something a bit special (and long-winded) for this game. I promise that other recaps won't be as long, unless the situation so merits. If you take the time to read through this, I'm sure you'll agree that the sheer tension of this game merits this in-depth detail. So without further adieu...

What follows is a narrative in 15 parts describing what can only be called as an epic soccer match, because this game truly should be viewed through the prism of its real-time narrative. Some games, the narrative seems predetermined; other games, the sporting gods jest. I like to think that the latter are what makes sports so special to fans: the unexpected occurring in such a way that connects to us emotionally, whether good or bad.

This game most definitely falls into the latter category.

Warning: This post is 3700 words or so long (no joke), and a good portion of that could reasonably be considered somewhat deranged. If this floats your boat and you want to relive the emotional rollercoaster of this game, at this point you should skip down to Part II and avoid the spoilers involved in the official recap.

If you're just interested in the result, the official (boring) recap of the game can be found here: WF Sports Recap with Highlights

Got all that? Good. We have a lot to talk about. Let's get down to business.

Quzybuk Thoughts: For each part, I will provide quick thoughts from me about what has happened. In this case, I obviously hope you didn't click the link. If you did, I bet you're the type of person who is planning to live-tweet the Breaking Bad finale so the DVR crowd will know everything that happens in advance.


Don't do that, by the way.


Part II: Pregame Notes

The North Carolina men's soccer team is very, very good. Coming into the game, they were ranked #1 in the country, although they were almost sure to lose that ranking coming into this game by virtue of their 1-0 loss against William and Mary during the week. They also came in sporting an odd 0-0-3 record in conference, which goes to show either the difficulties of expectations or the overall quality of play in the ACC. In short, this is a team that needed a win, and had the quality to get one. The Heels have been exceedingly stingy defensively, allowing only 4 goals in 7 games coming into this match.

The Wake Forest men's soccer team is also very, very good. I wrote about their collective performance in Tuesday's 2-1 win against #17 VCU, in which the #24-ranked Deacons dominated a quality team after the ludicrous red card to forward Sean Okoli. (An aside: if the same ref had been working this game, the game would've finished with both teams playing 4 on 4.) The Deacs stood 5-2-0 on the season, but in first place in the ACC with a perfect 3-0-0 mark. That #24 ranking is low, given the performance against VCU and the fact that the Deacons were as high as #9 a few weeks ago.

It's relatively infrequently that you get a chance to take on #1, in your own stadium, in front of a regular season record crowd. To be the king, you have to beat the king.

Quzybuk Thoughts: Holy crap there are a lot of people here. And a lot of them are wearing blue. Man, I wonder what it would be like to have Wake fans actually travel to away games?


Part III: Early Game Jitters (1st minute to 10th minute)

Wake came out with only a moderate alteration to its usual 4-3-3, and this was due to Okoli's previously mentioned red card (causing him to be suspended for this game). Andy Lubahn moved into Okoli's central striker role, while Michael Gamble moved from the midfield to one of the wing attacking positions, with Ross Tomaselli playing in Gamble's previous role.

The Deacs started out looking to control the ball. The Deacs played a lot of horizontal passes across the back four (from left to right, Tolani Ibikunle, Jalen Robinson, Sam Fink, and Chris Duvall) and back to goalie Alec Ferrell. A lot of teams are content to let the Deacs play those passes without pressure or with token pressure. Most of those teams aren't the #1 team in the country, and particularly a #1 team in the country coming off a loss. North Carolina pressed the Wake defenders, causing loose balls forward which were generally collected by North Carolina defenders or midfielders, who quickly turned the ball back upfield. The effect of the midfielders pressing seemed to destabilize the Wake backs, who were often left scrambling to recover from darting runs by midfielders and layoff passes from forwards.



Part IV: Jitters Gone - (10th minute to 25th minute)

After about 10 minutes or so, Wake settled down. The midfield of Tomaselli, Jared Watts, and Ian Harkes began interconnecting the passes from the backline with the forwards. Luca Gimenez in particular looked dangerous for the Deacs, with several darting runs down the left side and clever footwork to escape tackles. It also established the Deacons' strategy: play balls into space behind the North Carolina flanks, and let Gimenez, Lubahn, and Gamble retrieve them. Okoli's presence was sorely missed in this regard, as he is quicker and faster to get to balls played over the top. Still, Wake nearly had a breakthrough in the 21st minute when Lubahn saved a ball on the touch line and found a wide open Gamble at the penalty spot, but Gamble's first-time shot flew well over the crossbar.

Quzybuk Thoughts: Okay... playing our way into this... settling down... this is okay...


Part V: Shit Hits the Fan (25th minute)

Josh Rice is huge. He's a North Carolina forward, and he's listed at 6-1, 190 pounds on the official team roster. Compared to everyone else, he looks like Thor and Andre the Giant had an unholy lovechild. For perspective, I'm in what I'd call okay-to-good shape but not collegiate-soccer-player shape, with a fairly wide frame, am also 6-1, and weigh 175 or 180 pounds depending on whether I ate at Mellow Mushroom last night. Also for perspective, Wake's two central defenders are listed at 6-3, 190 pounds (Sam Fink) and 5-9, 145 pounds (Jalen Robinson). Fink is taller and thinner and I doubt he weighs as much as I do, Robinson is just tiny, and I reiterate that Josh Rice is one big-ass dude. Oh, and he's fast. He'd already dribbled through the Wake midfield for a 40 yard run earlier in the game.

Add "can shoot" to that resume, as he took a pass in with his back to goal 20 yards out, took one side step to free up some space from his defender (Robinson), and rifled the ball into the right side-netting. Nothing Alec Ferrell could do about it. 1-0 bad guys, and the Carolina fans around the stadium roar to life. I honestly have no idea how this team has only scored 9 goals in 7 previous games with this behemoth lumbering about. He's not even their leading scorer on the season.

Quzybuk Thoughts: This guy looks like he belongs punching dinosaurs in Pacific Rim or something. Jesus. Also, that was one heckuva shot. We may be in trouble.

Bonus Quzybuk Thought, when in the second half Rice tried to convince the ref that Robinson had knocked him down: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


Part VI: Mustering a ResponSHITSHITSHITSHIT (25th minute to halftime)

Full credit to the Deacs: they did not take the goal lightly. The next five minutes of the game were spent almost exclusively in North Carolina's half of the field, often very deep in North Carolina's half of the field. The Wake midfield whizzed the ball around dangerously, the forwards made excellent runs... and the Deacs managed a whopping one shot during this period that didn't even make it to the goal because a Carolina defender threw his body in front of it.

And then the Tarheels decided to stop playing defense, and the rest of the half was one incisive counter-attack after another. The Deacs were lucky not to concede a second time, as the Heels were routinely able to play the ball into space for their forwards to make runs. Despite Wake's increased sense of urgency, the best chances came to the Carolina players. Ferrell stopped a 1 on 1 against Tyler Engel by tipping the ball wide of the post in the 35th minute, and in the 42nd minute Ferrell poked a Verneri Valimaa rocket over the bar. Valimaa had found the space to shoot after juking Chris Duvall on the touchline after Duvall had literally gone 70 yards on a dead sprint to get back on defense after the latest failed Deacon sortie forward. And Chris Duvall is frickin' fast, by the way.

Quzybuk Thought: I am exceedingly uncomfortable with the way this game is progressing. Halftime cannot get here soon enough. God bless you for hustling your ass off, Chris Duvall.


Part VII: Halftime

I got a Diet Pepsi from the concessions after waiting in line behind a pair of 13 year old girls for 12 or so minutes. I got back to my seat just before second half kickoff. Yay me.

Blogger So Dear: keeping you up-to-date on all your Wake Forest Sports concession stand news. Truly riveting stuff here, folks.

If you're so inclined, now would be a good time for you to get a tasty snack or refreshing beverage of your own. We're halfway there folks. Enough break time... let's keep going.

Quzybuk Thoughts: I am thirsty, and I wish it wasn't so cold so I could get a frozen lemonade.


Part VIII: More of the Same (first twenty-five minutes of the second half, so... uh... 46th minute to 70th minute)

I could probably recycle word-for-word some of the earlier sections of this recap for this part. The Deacs pressed, often with a defender getting involved in the attack. Luca Gimenez looked dangerous and had his defender doing loopy-dee-loo's trying to contain him. North Carolina seemed content to soak up pressure from the midfield and play quick, counter-attacking soccer, but the Wake defenders seemed much more up to the task in the second half.

Josh Rice tried the aforementioned flop against Jalen Robinson and Josh Rice is a big baby whining to the ref.

The main difference during this period to the end of the first half was that a combination of Wake having issues passing/receiving the ball (just like the football team - zing!) and Carolina midfield pressure caused the game to be exceedingly sloppy. Wake's forwards were increasingly shut off from play, as North Carolina would take an errant Wake pass or touch, pass the ball forward until getting the ball knocked away by a Wake defender, at which point the entire process would repeat itself. For 25 minutes.



Part IX: In Which Jay Vidovich Says "Screw Finesse" (70th minute to 82nd minute)

With about 20 minutes remaining, whether by some audible sideline instruction or pre-planned tactic, Wake pretty much abandoned anything resembling its usual offensive flow of building attacks through the midfield. Instead, increasing numbers of Wake players would try and time runs to get behind North Carolina defenders as either a Wake defender or defensive midfield would kick the ball over the top of the North Carolina defense. This strategy is generally seen as boring and ugly, because you're basically hoping for a defensive mistake or incredibly lucky bounce to go your way.

The more interesting aspect in this time frame was the decision to move Jared Watts basically out of his usual defensive midfield spot into one of the attacking roles. The effects of this were three-fold:

1) Watts generally acts as the focal point of the possession-based attack. This move was a concession of the midfield to Carolina, so when Wake inevitably lost the ball to the Tarheel defense, there were acres of space in which to control the ball and attack.

2) Most of the Wake players were incapable of winning headers with Tarheel players. Not Watts, who is very good in the air. (THIS IS IN NO WAY FORESHADOWING OF EVENTS TO COME.)

3) Watts, with all due respect to his incredibly vocal mother who comes to every game and thinks he's an angel, is an asshole. He talks trash. He plays extremely physical. Within minutes of moving to the front line, he and several North Carolina defenders had to be separated while having words with one another. In the least surprising development of the game, he would eventually pick up a yellow card for being shoved by Carolina goalie Brendan Moore after a play (no joke, they just happened near each other and the goalie just gave him a 2-handed shove) because at that point Watts had been in so many verbal altercations that the ref assumed he had instigated it somehow. So yeah, he's an asshole. But he's OUR asshole, so we love him.

Wake actually had fairly decent success with this strategy, despite its ugliness. With increasing numbers forward, Wake was able to get decent enough looks by playing flicks and touches through to runners. Luca Gimenez was feeling particularly frisky, but shot the ball several times straight at goalie Brendan Moore. (THIS ALSO CANNOT POSSIBLE BE FORESHADOWING.)

Still, it was clear that Wake's final touch was horribly lacking. However, Watts found himself with a golden opportunity in the 80th when he was able to turn and muscle past a first Carolina defender before collapsing in the box. No whistle from the referee, and Watts was furious to the point of demonstratively fuming after getting up with the play already on the Wake half. Apparently this did not please the Tarheel defenders who (shockingly!) exchanged pleasantries with him while he was walking back down the field.

Was it a penalty? Quite possibly. But it would've been a borderline call to give in such a big moment.

Quzybuk Thoughts: This game is uuuuuuuuuuuugly. And I would guess that Jared Watts claims to have sexually satisfied a lot of sisters/mothers/girlfriends of other players, but I bet he's only done about half of what he says he has. Two-thirds, tops.



What's not a borderline call? Michael Gamble getting a flicked header from Watts two minutes later and getting tackled (that would be football-style tackled, not slide tackled) from behind by defender Jonathan Campbell ten yards from the goal. (Reports that this was the only such tackle made by any Carolina athlete on the day were unconfirmed at time of story... heyooooooo!) Campbell should have been red-carded (it was blatant, he was the last defender, and it was a clear goal-scoring opportunity), but got off with a yellow. This was finally the big moment to knot the game, since Wake seemed incapable of doing so from the run of play. Gimenez stepped up to take the kick... and had to wait, because Watts and a Carolina player had to be separated while having words with one another. (No seriously. Again.) So, after two minutes of the referee lecturing players, Gimenez finally stepped up to take the kick....

Quzybuk Thoughts: *deep breath*



... and kicked it straight into Moore, who had lunged to his right and guessed correctly. Corner kick Wake, and you can hear a pin drop from 80% of the stadium except for those loudly-cheering blue-clad patrons.

Quzybuk Thoughts: Welp, we lose.


Part XII: In Which Wake Does Their Best Not To Lose (83rd minute to 89th minute)

After the missed penalty, all hell broke loose. At some point I started standing, as did most everyone around me. Every frantic push forward was met with groans at the inevitable loss of possession. North Carolina players would take the ball to the corner and try and kill as much time as possible before surrendering possession out-of-bounds. Watts got shoved by Moore and both got yellow cards. The Wake defense and midfield retrieved almost every loose ball in order to loft the ball forward. Carolina's defense didn't look incredibly trustworthy, but Wake was unable to muster any sort of final touch.

Quzybuk Thoughts: Must go faster, must go faster, gogogogogo.


Part XIII: Rapture (89th minute to end of regulation)

In the 89th minute, Carolina misplayed a ball out of the back. Wake was able to quickly retrieve, the ball, and someone lofted in a cross (at some point, the game becomes so frenetic that it becomes impossible to process/recall who is doing what). Moore came for the cross, but wasn't able to collect, and the ball fell to Andy Lubahn in the box. Andy Lubahn, who had missed almost all of last season because of a broken leg. Andy Lubahn, who had been replaced at striker by Sean Okoli, but was playing back at his original position due to Okoli's suspension. Andy Lubahn, who hadn't been able to get space to shoot cleanly all night. But Andy Lubahn had a sight line and a split second, and he fired the ball towards the upper right corner...

... where Brendan Moore came out of nowhere to tip the ball over the crossbar. Out for a corner kick.

Lubahn sprinted to the corner, where a ball-boy gave him a ball. In came the corner kick, with almost every Wake player and every Carolina player there to meet it. And the person who jumped highest was...

Jalen Robinson, all 5-9, 145 pounds of him, and he cleanly headed the ball into the far corner for the tying goal with 57 seconds left in the game.

Cue pandemonium in Spry Stadium.



Part XIV: Denouement (overtime)

There's not really a good way of sugar coating this: the overtime periods (college uses two ten-minute periods) were hugely anti-climactic after the end of regulation. To be fair, anything short of Wake scoring on the opening kickoff of the overtime probably would've seemed anti-climactic after that end of regulation, so... uh... yeah... take it with a grain of salt the size of Gibraltar.

One thing that does not need to be sugar-coated: Wake dominated both overtime periods. I'm not sure whether it was because of the emotional letdown suffered by the Carolina players or a renewed sense of purpose from the Wake players, but it seemed like Wake was always pushing and pressing. Unfortunately, the goal never came.

Our old friend Josh Rice (remember him?) actually had a good crack after an overaggressive push left Carolina with space to counterattack. Rice ended up having quite a bit of space and cracked a shot, which fortunately was straight at Alec Ferrell. It was Carolina's only real threatening moment during either period.

Wake's best chance in the overtime came in the second period when Jared Watts had a free touch at the six yard box but put his shot right at his BFF Moore. Ultimately, the game ended with Wake repeatedly crashing forward and Carolina being largely unable to get out of its own half.

Quzybuk Thought: A draw? I can live with a draw. Not sure whether I should feel like we got lucky or unlucky with it though.


Part XV (in honor of #15, Jalen Robinson): Postgame Thoughts

So yeah. That was... something. Three hours after the end of the game and I'm still trying to process it. I mean... wow. Just wow. What a game. What an absolutely amazing, excruciating game.

- The Wake defenders did a fantastic job in the second half. Even when Wake couldn't hold on to possession, the defense snuffed out pretty much any and all attacks quickly. Eventually the midfield/attackers remembered that they were good at the whole soccer thing and things got rolling.

- Jared Watts. Most interesting player on the field. Great running the show in the midfield or energizing a moribund attack by becoming a de facto striker. And a Grade A shit talker.

- The Moore save on the Lubahn shot was remarkable. Moore had literally misplayed the ball seconds earlier, and instead of moping he had the presence of mind to get back, saw the ball through the mass of players, and was able to make the fantastic save on top of that. Lubahn's shot was going in. Lubahn knew it. Everyone in the stadium knew it. And then Moore was like "lol not today guys" and palmed it over. I suspect he might be an all-American at the end of the season. Or he might be Superman. Who knows?

- Incredible presence of mind by Lubahn to not dwell on the fact that against 99% of goalies he would've just had the most dramatic goal of his career, and instead go and take the corner kick quickly and with incredible quality. There were lots of poor corners in this game from both sides, but Lubahn's was where it needed to be despite the pressure.

- Josh Rice. BIG. ASS. GUY. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, kudos to the ref for not bursting into laughter at Rice complaining that Jalen Robinson had knocked him over.

- A draw serves Wake well here. While it drops us into a tie for first place with Maryland, there's no doubting that it's a good result considering how close we were to getting nothing. For most of the game, it was clear that Carolina was the more composed team (I won't say better team, but they didn't suffer the suffer the long stretches of having to play defense until Wake started throwing players forward with abandon at the end and in overtime). And in terms of ACC standing and NCAA seeding, this will only be a positive result in the long run. I also suspect we will take a nice climb in the next release of the soccer rankings.

- Great crowd. We need more crowds like this, and not just at the men's games.

- At least one Wake team was competitive against its highly-ranked opponent today. Heyoooooooo!

- Jalen frickin' Robinson, you are my god.

Quzybuk Thought: Here's the link to the official WF Sports Recap again, if you got all the way down here. Thanks for reading, and I will hopefully see you at the Virginia Tech game next Friday at Spry Stadium!

The content of FanPosts is not necessarily the opinions, thoughts or beliefs of Blogger So Dear.

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