At first blush, Friday’s ACC matchup between North Carolina and Duke looks one-sided, a No. 1-ranked team going up against an opponent bobbing along at the .500 mark.
The Duke men haven’t beaten their ACC archrival since 2006, but the series has been a toss-up lately. They tied in 2011 and 2013, and North Carolina prevailed 2-1 in overtime in 2012 at Duke, where the teams resume their series at 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN3.com).
When North Carolina (4-1, 1-0 ACC) arrives at Koskinen Stadium, it will mark the fourth staight year the Tar Heels have been ranked No. 1. Those four years correspond with the tenure of coach Carlos Somoano, who won an NCAA title with the Tar Heels in 2011.
Following two scoreless ties by former No. 1 UCLA over the weekend to Santa Clara and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, UNC ascended to the top spot in the NSCAA, Soccer America and College Soccer News polls. Inexplicably the Tar Heels are only No. 6 according to TopDrawerSoccer.com, the fourth major poll. UCLA handed UNC its only loss.
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Coincidentally, that 1-0 loss in Chapel Hill on Aug. 31 marked the last time that the Tar Heels have surrendered a goal. Goalkeeper Brendan Moore and his veteran back line are working on a scoreless stretch of 419 minutes, 12 seconds, roughly 4 1/2 games. In that run Moore, a redshirt senior, has shut out Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, Pittsburgh and William & Mary.
None of that will matter to Duke (2-2-1, 0-1), which is bent on picking up a marquee victory that would go a long way toward an NCAA tournament berth. The Blue Devils are also eager to atone for a poor showing in their ACC opener Saturday at No. 9 Louisville, a 5-0 loss.
Highlight reel: If you haven’t seen the video of N.C. State sophomore midfielder Michael Bajza’s goal against Wake Forest from last Sunday, check it out here: www.gopack.com/sports/m-soccer/spec-rel/091514aaa.html.
This is one of those highlight-reel shots that you have to see to believe.
Early in the second half of N.C. State’s 2-1 loss, the Wolfpack had a free kick from midfield. After an initial Wolfpack header, the ball was cleared out of the penalty area by a Wake defender. Bajza controlled it 30 yards out with his head, dropped the ball to his right foot and with one touch chipped it over Wake Forest goalkeeper Alec Ferrell in the upper right corner of the net.
Things didn’t continue to go as well for Bajza, however. He picked up two yellow cards and a subsequent ejection midway through the second half. N.C. State junior defender Reed Norton also received a red card, and the Wolfpack played the final 14 minutes with nine men on the field. The red cards caused Bajza and Norton to miss N.C. State’s Tuesday night victory over College of Charleston.