The Wake Forest Demon Deacons men’s soccer team will have to wait at least another week for win number 10 on the year, as they tied 0-0 at home to the NC State Wolfpack to move to 9-2-1 on the year, while State moved to 2-7-2. The story of this game, and what will likely be the story for the remainder of the spring window, is that the Deacs don’t have the same depth that they did in the fall. The Deacs came into this one carrying 4 injuries, with Garrison Tubbs, Takuma Suzuki, Aristotle Zarris, and David Wrona all apparently unavailable for selection due to injury, with Zarris still not having played this season after a knee injury in 2019. Add onto that the departure of Justin McMaster to Minnesota United after the first game of the spring window and the Deacs are very thin going forward, and it showed in this one.
It didn’t look that way early, however, as the first 15-20 minutes were dominated by the Deacs, as they controlled the possession and the flow of the game, not allowing State to enter their half. Nico Benalcazar had a very early headed chance on a corner but couldn’t get enough on it to direct it on target. Kyle Holcomb would have the best chance of the half and the game after a nice tight passing combination with Oscar Sears that ended with Holcomb having a shot on target from just inside the area at the near post that Leon Krapf was able to react to and parry wide. As the half wore on, NC State grew into the game, but would give away a couple of late chances, the first to Kyle Holcomb, who received a pass in behind about 8 yards from goal and was able to make a move around Krapf, but the German goalkeeper was able to claw back to him and get a hand on his shot to put it out for a corner. A weird deflection on the corner fell onto the head of Nico Benalcazar, who seemed to have a good opportunity to head it back across for another player, but instead tried to put it on frame and put it over the crossbar.
The teams went into the half tied 0-0, with the Deacs having the better of the chances but NC State having taken total control of the game, not allowing the Deacs to do much of anything going forward. That would continue in the second half. Although Hosei Kijima had an early chance for the Deacs, as he fizzed a shot wide of the goal from distance after getting receiving the ball from Colin Thomas, the Pack still controlled the game and looked to be the more likely of the two teams to score. They had a great chance with 21 minutes to go, with a cross from Alex Bautista finding Kuda Muskwe in space about 14 yards from goal, but his touch would let him down and Hosei Kijima would sweep up the danger. Another good chance fell to Ivy Brisma, again after great work from Alex Bautista, who cut it back to him at the top of the box unmarked, but he would put his shot over the crossbar.
The two teams ended regulation still tied at 0, and the overtime periods were about as dull as the first 90 minutes. Both teams were clearly exhausted, and although the Deacs did have a bit of a better spell in the OT periods, especially in the second one where they were able to get a bit more of a grip on the game, neither team had any chances of note, and the final score would be 0-0.
Man of the match for this game could go to a couple of players. Hosei Kijima had a very solid game in the middle of the field, bringing a lot of energy and bite to the position, winning a lot of balls to snuff out NC State attacks. Alex Bautista of NC State had an excellent game, providing two chances that his forwards were unable to convert. For me, the overall man of the match was Prince Amponsah, who I think had an excellent game defensively and held the much bigger Kuda Muskwe in check, also making a couple of key tackles in the area to prevent any big chances from coming through for the Pack. Ultimately, the Deacs need to figure out where the goals will come from. Their backline, even with the injuries and departures it is dealing with, was excellent in two of their three games so far, with the game against BC also being a solid outing for them in spite of the two goals, the blame for which did not really fall on them. It’s a very thin attacking group and could potentially be even thinner come next game, as Omar Hernandez did not play in OT, and it is unclear whether that was due to fatigue or injury. Someone needs to step up to replace the production lost in the fall, and right now it is unclear who it will be.
The Deacs return to action next week in South Bend against Notre Dame, Saturday at 7:00 PM.