North Carolina will have some unexpected down time in the soccer season in the next two weeks.
Sixth-seeded Louisville struck for an opportunistic second-half goal by Ivan Gutierrez and shut out third-seeded UNC 1-0 Sunday in the quarterfinals of the ACC men’s soccer championship at Fetzer Field.
The Tar Heels (12-5-1) will have to wait until Nov. 17 for an at-large bid when the NCAA tournament field is announced and probably won’t play again until Nov. 23. The Cardinals (9-6-3) will advance to Friday’s ACC semifinals at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary to play second-seeded Syracuse, a 2-0 winner Sunday against Duke.
In the other semifinal, top-seeded Notre Dame, which ousted Virginia 3-0, will take on fourth-seeded Clemson, which tied Wake Forest 1-1 and advanced on penalty kicks 3-2.
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Louisville ended UNC’s eight-game unbeaten streak and also handed the Tar Heels their first home loss since Aug. 31 to UCLA, a span of seven games.
The Cardinals had experienced some streaks of their own. They were winless and had been shut out over their past three matches, although two ended up ties. They had allowed only one goal in their past four games but were facing the ACC’s highest-scoring team in UNC.
“If you were to describe our struggles, it’s scoring goals,” said Louisville coach Ken Lolla, who was an All-American midfielder while at Duke (1980-83). “We’ve been playing well. But on the attacking side we’re struggling to score goals.”
This game followed that script, with few serious scoring opportunities before the Cardinals made UNC pay for one mistake.
In the 76th minute, Louisville defender Jerry Ramirez took a ball away from UNC’s Raby George in the midfield and found forward Ricardo Velazco open on the left flank.
Velazco slotted a perfect pass in stride for Gutierrez, who got between two UNC defenders and beat goalkeeper Brendan Moore with a shot inside the left post for his second goal of the season.
“They got us on that counter, (it was) a pretty bad mistake to give that ball away,” UNC coach Carlos Somoano said.
UNC, which outshot Louisville 9-6, stepped up the attack in the second half, but its best opportunity was a free kick by Omar Holness in the 49th minute that Cardinals goalkeeper Joachim smothered for his only save en route to his sixth shutout of the season. Moore also had one save.
“I’m proud of our guys because of the grit we showed in the second half when they jumped on us,” Lolla said. “We weathered that storm and found a way to get a goal.”
“We just wanted to speed up the tempo in the second half,” Somoano said. “We weren't able to turn corners today. That was the major difference. You have to be able to get around the outside and not just play the ball into the middle.”
“It seemed like they were just marking tight, man-to-man,” UNC forward Andy Craven said. “When the situation came, a second guy would come in and double-team. We had a hard time finding the open runner for the ball.”
Craven, who leads the ACC with 11 goals and 25 points, took only one shot, a header that sailed wide off a corner kick by Holness in the 85th minute.
“We did a good job of not giving them time and space to play,” Lolla said. “They didn't have much other than restarts.”