Tonight at 6:00 PM, Wake Forest’s Men’s Soccer team will look to shake off a midweek defeat and stay high in the United Soccer Coaches’ Poll against the number 3 North Carolina Tar Heels. The Deacs return to Winston-Salem with a 3-1-0 record after a 2-1 loss to Clemson at Historic Riggs Field, while UNC come to Winston-Salem without a single blemish: they sport a 2-0-0 record and have not given up a goal yet this season, most recently beating Clemson 1-0 on a last second goal. This is a gut check game for Bobby Muss’ Deacs, and they’ll have to go out and prove that they are still one of the best programs in this country.
UNC leads the all time series against Wake 22-13-10, but have not beaten the Deacs since 2011, going 0-3-2 in that time plus a loss in an exhibition game. The most recent game between these two was a 1-0 win for Wake last season in Winston-Salem, with Bruno Lapa scoring the lone goal in the 79th minute. These Tar Heels look much different to the team that missed the NCAA tournament altogether last season, and I’m sure that Carlos Somoano’s men will be itching to put Carolina’s miserable run against Wake to an end.
UNC have a very simple and effective system in place at their program. They play a 4-3-3 in a mid block, generally looking to bog the other team down in the middle of the field rather than trying to win the ball high up the field like Clemson. They shift heavily defensively toward the side the ball is on, creating a massive numerical advantage almost at all times on defense. The only players that press high up the field are their very fluid front three, that move all over the field and press intensely as the opposing team nears the center line, but the midfield and defense are relatively static positionally. Going forward, they don’t commit a lot of players, generally relying on their forwards to make things happen by themselves in one on one scenarios and counter attacks. They are most effective offensively on set pieces, however, which were a concern for Wake earlier in the season, especially coming out of their exhibition versus Pittsburgh where they allowed two goals on set pieces, and then opened the season giving one up to Louisville. Muuss’ game plan for this game should be interesting. Against NC State, who play a fairly similar style to UNC, he tried to force them to be on the ball and create chances by breaking down the Deacon defense, which they generally could not do in that game. But if UNC can find set piece opportunities and contain the Wake offense in the same way Clemson did, it could be a bad night for Wake.
Ones to Watch Out For
#22 Milo Garvanian (Left Back, Junior): Garvanian is generally a solid defender for UNC but that is not really the reason he is a player I would keep an eye on for this team. He is one of the main free kick takers for a team that loves to score on set pieces. He has one assist on the season, on the first goal in their 2-0 win against Duke, but he also delivered the ball that Filippo Zattarin eventually put into the net in their 1-0 win against Clemson. If there is a dead ball on the left side of the field, it will be certain danger for Wake.
#28 Tim Schels (Central Midfielder, Freshman): While any of the hardworking midfield three could be pointed out as key players for this game, my pick is the German freshman Tim Schels. He didn’t look the slightest bit out of place in the game against Clemson, and looks like a very cool and committed player in the middle of the field. While he is not a big player physically, he knows how to put his frame to use, and looks like he could be an excellent ball winner in the middle of the field for the next four years in Chapel Hill.
#15 Isaiah Parente (Central Midfielder, Junior): Parente is coming off of a game to forget against Clemson, but he is still the key to the midfield in this team. He sets the tone with his passing and excellent decision making, and he is no slouch on the back end either. This will be another difficult game for him in a slightly different way than Clemson was, as instead of facing dogged pressure, he’ll have to find a way to cut through UNC’s midfield swamp, which will not allow him many passing options. If Parente has a typical performance then Wake will likely have a lot of success going forward.
#24 Jake Swallen (Attacking Midfielder, R-Sophomore): Going into this year, it was going to be very difficult to replace a player like Bruno Lapa in the lineup, especially because there aren’t really any players like him on this roster. At Wake he was a very traditional attacking midfielder, serving primarily as a playmaker and distributer, and players of that mold are not very common anymore. Jake Swallen has been tasked with filling Lapa’s spot and his playstyle is a lot more focused on quick touches in tight spaces and finding space for himself either to take players on or give quick balls in behind. Against a team like this, he’ll be required to be almost perfect in tight spaces when he receives the ball, and, if he is, he could create some of the only chances Wake could get against a well organized team like UNC.