All year, Boston College men’s soccer has competed admirably against a tough slate of ACC opponents. In fact, each of BC’s first 12 matches were decided by one goal or less. But on Friday night, that streak came to an end. North Carolina avenged its 2016 ACC Tournament loss to the Eagles, scoring twice in the final 10 minutes of regulation to secure a 2-0 victory. The two-goal decision marked BC’s (4-6-3, 2-5 Atlantic Coast) third loss in a row and second shutout defeat of the 2018 campaign.
Scoring chances were at a premium in the first half, as neither team registered a shot on goal. No. 5 UNC’s (11-2-1, 5-1) best opportunity came in the fourth minute, when junior forward Jelani Pieters raced down the left flank before lifting a tantalizing cross that Nils Bruening failed to put on target. BC’s closest call occurred in the 17th minute. After a sloppy UNC turnover, Simon Enstrom delivered a beautiful pass that set up freshman midfielder Kristofer Konradsson with plenty of space at the top of the penalty box. Despite scoring his first two career goals in BC’s previous match against Connecticut, Konradsson did not carry over his shooting momentum and pushed his shot into the side netting.
What the first half lacked in quality, it made up for in physicality. In just the 10th minute, UNC junior Jeremy Kelly completely crunched BC midfielder Joshua Forbes. Kelly only received a yellow card, much to the debate of many Eagles player and coaches. Throughout the rest of the half, Enstrom was frequently challenged, as was the rest of the BC attack.
The second half did not start much differently than the first, as the game continued in its defensive, messy way. Yet the pace and intensity of the match increased dramatically after a controversial call in the 69th minute. BC players clamored for a hand ball to be called on a UNC defender in his own box, but the referee elected not to blow his whistle. Immediately after this incident, BC defenders blocked two powerful UNC shots at the other end of the pitch.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they could only hold on for so long. In the 80th minute, Nils Bruening scored his sixth goal of the season, heading home a cross from Jack Skahan. It was UNC’s first shot on goal the entire match. Just over four minutes later, it was Skahan who took matters into his own hands and finished off a beautiful through ball from Pieters. He calmly slotted a shot past a charging Antonio Chavez Borrelli to cap the Tar Heels’ second and final scoring play of the night.
BC’s only two shots on target came from Konradsson. UNC goalkeeper James Pyle easily saved both attempts. Although they displayed great passion and desire, the Eagles failed to mount a late rally, and the visitors comfortably saw out the rest of the game.
That said, BC mirrored UNC’s shot total of nine and, for the most part, held its own throughout the match.
“It was just a matter of the couple chances UNC had,” Eagles associate head coach Bob Thompson said. “I thought we did really well as a team and we were really organized. I just think it’s the last 20 minutes in every game, there’s a little bit of fatigue, and we’re making a couple of mistakes at the end of games.”
Earlier this week, head coach Ed Kelly told reporters during his weekly press conference that the Eagles are one of the toughest teams in the conference and, at the moment, can play with anybody in the country. They certainly can—after all, they’ve given a pair of top-five teams a run for their money. But at this juncture, morale victories fail to bolster a BC team’s NCAA Tournament resume, especially one that’s badly in need of a few more signature wins.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor