Relegation, an idea foreign to American sports, puts an interesting twist on soccer leagues across the pond. The idea is simple: the three worst teams go down a division, and three replace them. For a Premier League team like West Bromwich Albion, which constantly finishes near the bottom, a big upset against Manchester United might be nice, but it is the hard-fought wins against fellow bottom feeders that matter most in the fight to stay afloat.
On Friday night, the Boston College men’s soccer team followed up its upset of No. 1 Notre Dame—the Man U of the ACC—with a goalless draw against North Carolina State, which resides at the bottom of the Atlantic Division alongside the Eagles.
“It was a rough game, because they’re in the same position as us, trying not to lose,” said BC head coach Ed Kelly. “I’m sure [the NC State coach] is saying the same thing.”
For the first 15 minutes of the game, neither team was able to produce many quality chances on goal, with the Eagles looking only slightly better than the Wolfpack. Midfielder Derrick Boateng, operating on the right flank, saw the ball early and often and was able to get in a few good crosses, but BC was unable to make anything of its early possession.
NC State relied heavily on the counter attack early on, pushing forward after BC giveaways and looking to spring its forwards, but solid defending from the Eagles thwarted any potential chances for the Wolfpack.
In the 17th minute, the Eagles’ leading scorer, Isaac Normesinu, nearly opened up the game, only to be denied by the crossbar. After collecting the ball in the middle, he beat one defender with a quick, beautiful move, and unleashed a powerful shot from 20 yards out that smashed against the woodwork.
Then, in the 28th minute, NC State midfielder Zach Knudson put leading-scorer Nick Surkamp in behind the BC defense, but keeper Alex Kapp scrambled out to deny the big No. 9 with a sliding save.
Surkamp continued to cause problems for the Eagles’ defense. After winning the ball from center back Dylan Pritchard in the final third, he was able to get a quick shot off, but couldn’t beat Kapp.
BC target man Phil Sandgren, who has been injured, came on for the final 10 minutes alongside wide player Idrissa Bangura to close out the half. Despite both teams having five shots, only one was on goal for the Eagles, while the Wolfpack forced Kapp into four saves.
The Eagles took the game to the Wolfpack to start the second half.
Two minutes in, Henry Balf was presented with the best opportunity of the night. Normesinu cut back inside along the baseline and found Balf at the top of the six, but the freshman put it off the crossbar and over for a goal kick.
Boateng linked up well with left-back Mohammed Moro throughout the game on overlapping runs from the defender. The Eagles constantly pushed wide and sent in dangerous crosses, but were unable to finish or take advantage of the seven corners that they won in the second half.
In the 71st minute, Balf had another opportunity to break the deadlock, but his low, hard shot from inside the box was expertly deflected wide by a sprawling NC State goalkeeper, Alex McCauley.
“I thought we had a lot of chances,” Kelly said. “Not criticizing anyone, but Ike did well but had a couple of good chances, Zeiko had some really good chances, Henry had a couple of chances.”
NC State’s only chance came late in the half, when a BC defender deflected Reed Norton’s shot from close range, which looped just over the crossbar and past a beaten Kapp.
The Wolfpack could not follow up with any other chances, and Kapp did not have to make a save after the first half.
The Eagles enjoyed more possession, and Normesinu and Moro continued to get the ball into the box, but neither were able to get off shots on goal.
With a minute left, BC was unable to capitalize on back-to-back corners, and the ensuing 2-on-1 counterattack was wasted by the Wolfpack, ending a very uneventful regulation period.
Neither team was able to produce anything substantial in the overtime periods, with only a shot apiece in the 20 minutes as a result of tired legs.
“Zeiko got tired, then the next guy got tired, and we were trying to move people around and get fresh legs on,” Kelly said. “[NC State] did the same thing, didn’t they.”
The Eagles were without 6-foot-4 defender Len Zeugner, who has pneumonia. He has played in eight of the Eagles’ first nine games this year.
“We missed our German guy, we missed Lennart, that makes us a different team,” Kelly said. “Maybe it had been much calmer if Lennart was there.”
While the Eagles do not have to worry about being relegated from the ACC, they do have to worry about dropping points against beatable teams. Following up a big upset with a scrappy, hard-fought win against NC State would have gone a long way in righting the ship this season.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor