The number one ranked North Carolina Tar Heels suffered their first loss of the season on 9/12 against unranked James Madison. The two teams had met the season before and, despite JM opening the scoring, UNC pulled out an easy 4-1 victory. Factor in that UNC had already faced a few top ten teams and that JM had already lost to a few relatively unknowns, and you had a recipe for another easy UNC victory and a 17th straight game without being beaten. However, the James Madison Dukies had other plans for last season’s champions.
Perhaps it was the fact that this was the first game of the season that North Carolina had to play outside the confines of their home pitch and they might have been over confident, I mean, they had outscored their previous opponents in the season 9 to 1. It also could have been that James Madison had nothing to lose. They were not going to be winning their division and they certainly were not going to make it to the end-of-season tournament, so this was the biggest game in their young season. No matter what the eventual cause, it led to a perfect storm that saw UNC stumble to a loss that may seriously affect their seeding once the tournament starts to take shape.
The lone goal in the game came on a controversial penalty call on a UNC defender for a shove in the box. After it was slotted away, UNC were unable to bring the game back level despite 8 corner kicks and a team that opened its scoring account 3 minutes into their season. The pressure may have gotten to the pre-season favorites since they had not been playing from behind in the entirety of their season. UNC also allowed more shots in this game than they had allowed in any game prior, showing that they were not prepared for James Madison to give them any kind of competition.
You have to think that their next fixture against Wake Forest may be pivotal. Either UNC will come out and try and prove why they are number one in the nation or they might show that James Madison did more than hurt them for only ninety minutes. It also will help that they will be back at home for the next game and that their away game travels are somewhat minimal throughout the season. If UNC rebounds and they end up in the College Cup games, this game against James Madison may be the motivation to have them repeat as the best team in Div. I. The season just got interesting!
Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com
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