It is a new look North Carolina that took the field in the first game against Gardner-Webb. With six seniors leaving for various professional avenues, they certainly have to look to other areas in order to field a competitive eleven. They also are still reeling from the death of recent Tar-Heel Kirk Urso and the North Carolina field and jerseys have been adorned with the number 3 in order to remember Urso.
North Carolina started the game amazingly brightly and it showed the #1 ranked recruiting class from last year making an immediate impact. After only three minutes of play and a few attacks that had resulted in many blocked shots, Junior transfer Andy Craven (number 11) opened the scoring from twenty yards out with a strong, curling shot that flew into the upper corner of the goal. NC’s previous shots were all blocked by a Gardner-Webb defense that seemed out of their depth from the starting whistle.
Gardner-Webb was unable to mount a true attack into the NC half for almost a full five minutes, with NC’s midfield stopping every forward movement almost as soon as it crossed the half-line. Then, when GWU got into the attacking third, they seemed more prone to attempt crosses than to go for goal themselves. Although GWU were able to hold the ball down close to the NC goal for nearly 3 full minutes, they continued to send unfruitful crosses into the box.
Although the first ten minutes were end-to-end, we finally started seeing both sides attempting to build from the back. The boot nerd inside me was able to suffer through the lull in play by seeing the North Carolina all-blue kit paired with the clash Nike CTR-360 II. UNC tried to fast-break out of the half-field set and GWU seemed to be trying to pass their way into the attacking areas, and it seemed like these were the strategies laid forth by the competing coaching staffs for the game. We saw the first yellow card around 18 minutes in for a foul off the ball, the card going to GWU’s Kevin Comvalius. The card seemed to cap off a section of play where GWU were trying to increase the physicality of play.
The Bulldogs (GWU) were able to win a few free-kicks after the first media time-out, but they send every single one over the goal and out of bounds. A flurry of substitutions occurred with 12 minutes left in the half and NC benefitted immediately and looked dangerous. GWU were able to find their way into the attacking third, but they were never able to make any of their attacks look dangerous. North Carolina still looked to be the more dangerous of the two teams and they fashioned a few more attempts. GWU’s Eric Yeager snagged a yellow card with 30 seconds left in the half. That would be the last major action in the half, and it would end with NC up 1-0 and GWU not able to fashion a single shot.
The second half started very similar to the first, with NC attempting to double their lead. NC dominated possession and made GWU almost pay dearly for every turnover. Once again, it took GWU nearly six minutes to make a true foray into the NC half. The second half then followed the first half script again by seeing the possession get very choppy for both teams and the sloppy play result in very few true attacks being mounted. GWU were finally able to record their first shot of the game with almost 34 minutes left in the game, further showing NC’s dominance.
Although Carolina continued to dominate possession, their attacks seemed to always end in an offside decision or a show well over the bar. Then, after several fruitless attacks, a string of passes ended with Jordan Gaffa being wide open about 12 yards out and putting the ball in the side netting for North Carolina’s second goal.
Seconds after the goal, NC got their first yellow card of the game in what seemed to be a 50-50 ball. Then, seeming that the second goal had forced the game into a fever pitch, a ball over the top found Carolina’s Andy Craven one on one with the keeper, but GWU’s senior keeper was able to make a save with the legs and prevent, or maybe just postpone, NC’s third goal.
Around the twenty minute mark, GWU started fouling several NC players and they were lucky to get away with no cards and with NC not capitalizing on any of the ensuing freekicks. Then, a quick break close to the 18th minute mark saw Chipper Root capitalize on the second assist for Danny Garcia and put North Carolina out of reach with a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Although NC dominated GWU with 15 shots and 3 goals in the first 75 minutes and only allowed one shot by GWU, they did look a bit rusty and it certainly seemed that if any team had faced them in their first fixture that had more ‘bite’ in the attack, NC may have been in trouble. The time between the 75th and the 85th minute were rather uneventful for both teams but GWU did seem to try and push the issue, albeit unsuccessfully. Then, when we got to the last 2 minutes, North Carolina started pushing hard for their fourth goal.
A sloppy push in the back resulted in NC receiving a penalty kick in the last minute and put further icing on the result- 4-0. Sophomore David Walden blasted the penalty and it gave North Carolina the confidence to hold possession for the last minute and prevent GWU from fashioning any more attacks. NC will take several positives away from the result while GWU will feel rather toothless in their attack. Will we see NC back at the College Cup this year? The early signs look good.
By: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com
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