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Preview: No. 4 Wake Forest Men’s Soccer takes on North Carolina State

After winning the previous two meetings this season, the Demon Deacons look for a third victory over the Wolfpack

UC Santa Barbara v Wake Forest Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons men’s soccer team will take their 9-2 record back to Spry for the 3rd straight straight game of the spring window, taking on the 2-7-1 North Carolina State Wolfpack in both teams’ second ACC matchup of the spring season. In their last match, the Deacs won a thriller against Boston College 3-2, with Hosei Kijima scoring two late goals in the last 5 minutes to win the game. NC State, on the other hand, are coming off of a 3-0 defeat to Louisville in Raleigh, with all three goals coming in the first 20 minutes of the second half. The Pack were also reduced to 10 men after a red card to Aidan Foster in the 55th minute, at which point they already trailed by 2.

The Matchup

The Deacs hold a 31-11-5 all time series record against NC State. They claimed two victories against the Pack in the fall window, the first a 4-1 beating powered by a second half surge in Winston-Salem, and the second a comfortable 2-0 in Raleigh, with the Pack being reduced to 10 with a red card to George Asomani leaving them a man down for the last 22 minutes. State has not had much luck this season in the ACC, losing all but 1 of their 7 conference matchups, with the exception being a 0-0 tie with the then #5 UNC Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. They entered the spring season with an 0-6-1 mark that included a loss to Navy, but have started the spring window much better, with 2 wins, and 2 shutouts, 2-0 over the UAB Blazers and 1-0 over the VCU Rams before losing their previously mentioned ACC spring opener. They are well out of the NCAA tournament conversation barring a huge turnaround, with this season likely marking the end of their three year tournament streak. The Deacs have won both of their games to start the start the spring season, 1-0 against Davidson and 3-2 over BC, but carry several injuries, including Garrison Tubbs and Takuma Suzuki, into this one. The Deacs are also still trying to replace the players they lost in the fall to the professional ranks and to graduation. State, on the other hand, retains most of its roster.

NC State employed a 4-4-2 formation in their game against Louisville, with their two forwards being the two pressers in the formation, with the Pack looking to force the ball out to the side lines to allow the wide players to compress the space and force turnovers. Offensively, they like to overload on the flanks with the fullbacks providing the width. Generally, they are a very direct team, however, as they look for opportunities to get their two forwards in behind the defense with long balls over the top. Defensively, the Wolfpack looked totally lost against Louisville. Every time the ball entered their third of the field it was total havoc, with players running all over the field to try and find someone to mark. Louisville’s wide players found themselves in space a whole lot during this game, both when they had the ball and when they were making runs for crosses. The second goal came from a Louisville player on the right wing being left unmarked, putting the ball back into the box where Alex Bautista handled it for a penalty. As the game went on, State tried to play out of the back, which was something they just could not do. A costly turnover by Kyle Edwards followed by some weak defending on his and David Norris’s part led to the third goal. The Deacs are a team that, even with the departures, are focused on getting the ball down the flanks to create chances, but they are also a team that has struggled against the press. And don’t forget, the Wolfpack gave the Deacs a game in the first half of their first meeting this season.

Ones To Watch:

NC State:

#9 Kuda Muskwe (FW): If NC State are able to get anything going on the offensive end, it will likely come from Muskwe. Tied with Ivy Brisma for the team lead in goals with 2 in 8 games, Muskwe is a an excellent athlete that is the prototypical striker for this NC State team. Big, fast, strong. He is relied upon to win aerial duels off of the long balls the Pack sends forward and find a way to get them to his strike partner or back into the midfield. He has shown some ability to change speeds quite well and find decent passes for his teammates, but NC State’s system is not one that showcases the abilities of its attacking players quite frequently, so examples of this are few and far between. But he is the focal point of this State attack, and they’ll need him to have an impactful game to get a result against Wake.

#1 Leon Krapf (GK): Another player the Wolfpack will need to be on the top of his game in this one is Leon Krapf. If this game goes anything like the first two, Krapf will be called into action quite a bit. In the first game between these two teams, Krapf was a non-factor and didn’t really have a great game, which led to the 4-1 scoreline. But in the second, Krapf was excellent for State, making several key saves including a penalty save on Kyle Holcomb, but again, it wasn’t enough. Krapf kept them in the game in Raleigh, though, and they may need him to do the same in this one.

Wake Forest:

#34 Chase Oliver (W): This is a game where Wake’s wingers will likely be the focal point. As previously mentioned, the Wolfpack have struggled mightily against wide players this season, and Wake is very reliant on their wide players going forward, so the matchups between Wake’s wingers and State’s fullbacks will likely decide the game. This game will be an opportunity for Chase Oliver to finally break out for the Demon Deacons. If he starts over Justin McMaster again, his matchup will likely be Alex Bautista at left back, who is not naturally a defender, as he played on the wing for State in the fall. This is the kind of matchup you need to take advantage of, and a dribbler like Oliver could absolutely dominate a player who is not naturally a defender. If Bautista has a game like he did last week, Oliver could have a huge night at Spry.

#3 Kyle Holcomb (FW): Wake’s leading goalscorer has gone into a bit of a dry spell in the last couple of games. He has not been without chances, he has just not been able to capitalize on the chances he has had. This is a perfect game for Holcomb to rediscover his form, chiefly because he has crushed NC State this season. In the previous two games, Holcomb had 3 goals and an assist combined. This State backline has been error-prone this season, and a guy like Holcomb is the kind of player who can create havoc up front with his energy. If he can summon the cutthroat finishing he showcased at the end of last year and the beginning of this one, he could find himself back on the scoresheet this game.

Kickoff for this game is scheduled for 6 PM on Saturday at Spry.