Tonight at 7:00, the Deacs wrap up their regular season against the NC State Wolfpack. This game will have no implications for the ACC Championship Tournament for either team, as the Wolfpack have missed out on the tournament entirely and Wake has already secured the top seed in the Southern Region, opening up tournament play against the team they lost to last year in the College Cup semifinal, UVA. The Deacs enter this contest at 6-1-0 and 4-1-0 in conference, while the Wolfpack sit at 0-5-1 and 0-4-1 in conference, with their most recent result being a 0-0 road tie with No. 4 UNC. All time, Wake leads the series 30-11-5 and the most recent game between the two was a 4-1 win for Wake, propelled by a Kyle Holcomb brace. This is the kind of game you can overlook, so the Deacs will need to be focused to defeat a tricky Wolfpack side.
As we saw earlier in the season, NC State prefer to play in a mid to deep block, putting as many players behind the ball as they can and relying heavily on direct balls forward and on hitting teams on the counter. Wake had some initial trouble getting through that block and went into the half tied in the two teams’ previous encounter, but they were able to hit State early in the second half and made them have to chase the game, and they just seemed to lose focus. Wake isn’t a team that relies on transitions to score goals, they are still very capable and almost prefer when another team is set up defensively when they are going forward. The Wolfpack’s attack was generally ineffective on the night and by the end of the game 4-1 felt like a fair result for both teams. The question now is whether State changes their game plan to reflect what most teams have tried to do against Wake this year by pressing the Deacon backline heavily. After the first Clemson game it felt like every team was looking to put pressure on this young Wake backline to force them into mistakes. It will be interesting to see how State will handle their last game of the fall season, especially since they will likely need to pick up a win before the spring to have any chance to enter the NCAA tournament conversation.
One To Watch
#19 Alex Bautista (Winger, Jr.): Scorer of the Wolfpack’s lone goal in Winston-Salem earlier this season on a rebound from a missed AJ Seals penalty, Bautista seems like one of the bright spots in a dismal Wolfpack front line that has only managed three goals this season. A quick player who can find himself space and dribble past defenders, Bautista seems like a player who just needs some help to bloom into a college star.
#1 Leon Krapf (Goalkeeper, R-Jr.): If this game is anything like the previous meeting between these teams, I expect Krapf to be very busy. Krapf seems to be a very capable goalkeeper who is suffering behind a backline that has struggled this fall, especially in the middle of this season. He picked up his first shutout of the fall against UNC last weekend, making two saves against UNC. If he has a very good game and this State team comes into this game motivated, the Deacs could struggle.
#14 Jahlane Forbes (Left Back, Fr.): This is a game that I expect the Deacs to rotate in a lot of players that Coach Muuss wants to get a better look at for the spring season, and I think Forbes is a player that will get a lot of time. Although Holland Rula appears to have taken over the left back spot for Wake, and has played very well there, Forbes has shown some flash in the times he has been on the field. Last game against Clemson he earned a good amount of playtime and set up Nico Benalcazar’s first half goal that went on to be the game winner. Definitely a more attacking fullback than Rula has been, it will be interesting to see how he can contribute going forward for the Deacs on both ends.
#17 Omar Hernandez (Midfielder, So.): It feels like Coach Muuss has been looking for a position for Hernandez to play since he’s arrived in Winston-Salem, playing him on both flanks and at the attacking mid spot, but it feels like he’s finally found a home in the absence of Isaiah Parente as part of the midfield pivot. He’s picked up a goal and two assists so far this season but what he’s done in the midfield in place of Parente doesn’t usually show up in the stat sheet. He’s been able to link the defense to the attack very well and has shown him self to be no slouch on the backend either. While I still think he needs some work to be a fully functioning part of a midfield pivot, I think that he’s been solid in this role and will be very good if he continues to progress.