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Men’s Soccer

No. 2 Irish fall at No. 3 UNC

| Monday, September 21, 2015

Notre Dame and North Carolina took to the field for their top-5 matchup on Friday night having conceded only three goals between them all season, but the teams combined for six as the No. 3 Tar Heels beat the No. 2 Irish 4-2 at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Friday afternoon.

The game started strong for the Irish (4-2-1, 1-1-0 ACC), who scored in the 13th minute, as senior midfielder Evan Panken found sophomore forward Jon Gallagher, who beat two Tar Heels defenders and slotted a left-footed shot from 18 yards out into the bottom corner of the goal.

The Tar Heels (5-0-1, 2-0-0) responded in the 21st minute though, as an attempted clearance from Irish sophomore defender Patrick Berneski fell to North Carolina junior midfielder/defender Colton Storm, who put the ball beyond the reach of junior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard to level the match.

The Irish and Tar Heels looked set to take the game to halftime at 1-1, but a North Carolina throw-in in the dying seconds in the half found its way to redshirt junior forward Tucker Hume at the edge of the box, who turned and shot past Hubbard to give the Tar Heels the lead at the break.

Irish head coach Bobby Clark said his team’s lack of concentration was to blame for the second Tar Heels goal.

“That second goal was definitely a lapse in concentration,” Clark said. “It came from a throw-in with six seconds before half time and we tuned out and thought the half was over; I think that most people did.

“I spoke to a few people in the stands and they said that they missed it because they thought the half was over, but [North Carolina] did very well and got that goal at an important time. He turned and he hit his shot with maybe less than a second left on the clock and that put us 2-1 down.”

The Irish started the second half firing, with senior midfielder Patrick Hodan having a shot saved and Panken seeing a shot cleared off the line, all in the first five minutes of the half. However, it was the Tar Heels who scored the first goal of the half, as another failed Irish clearance found a North Carolina player, this time sophomore forward Alan Winn, who put the ball past Hubbard.

The Tar Heels then made the game 4-1 as a quickly-taken free kick from senior midfielder Raby George found sophomore forward Zach Wright, who gave the ball to Winn for his second of the game. Clark said that his team’s failure to deal with the free kick was another failure in concentration.

“I thought the game was gettable at 3-1 but there was another lapse of concentration for the fourth,” said Clark. “The linesman gave a free kick against us maybe 30 yards out and we were looking to the linesman, discussing the merits of his call, some of us didn’t agree with it. But North Carolina just put the ball down, played it quickly and they scored the fourth goal off of that.

“There were two lapses in concentration, the second and the fourth goal, and that really helped them.”

The Irish scored in the 69th minute to close the gap, as junior midfielder Mark Gormley earned his first goal for the Irish, and from there Notre Dame looked to get a third with chances from Gallagher and junior defender Brandon Aubrey. However, the Tar Heels held on to their lead and served the Irish their second consecutive loss.

Clark said that he still believed his team could have taken something from North Carolina until the end of the game.

“I thought there was always a chance right up until the very end,” said Clark. “I thought we had the better chances throughout the game, I thought we had better scoring opportunities, but we gave up two bad goals, from concentration errors, it wasn’t anything technical or tactical. It was just not concentrating, and it’s a harsh way to learn a lesson, but it’s an important lesson to learn early in the season.”

Clark also said the game was particularly entertaining for the neutral and represented the quality of the conference.

“I thought the game was a tremendous advert for ACC soccer,” said Clark. “There were two great teams and it was a very entertaining game; it was a great game to be on TV.”

Notre Dame will next be in action at Michigan State on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at DeMartin Soccer Complex in East Lansing, Michigan.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel