Labor Day was celebrated across the United States on Monday while VCU Men’s Soccer were hard at work in competitive action at Chapel Hill. The Rams faced #2 North Carolina as VCU aimed towards an early season upset but fell victim to another emotional defeat near the end of regulation.
The Tar Heels needed just under five minutes after opening kick-off to strike first. Off of UNC’s second corner kick, Nico Melo sent the ball into VCU’s box where Zach Wright headed it towards the far goal post as Walker Hume finished the goal with a header of his own into the net.
VCU was playing catch-up after conceding the opening goal. UNC controlled possession while moving their attack forward as the Rams continued to play while looking for that golden opportunity to equalize.
That opportunity came in the 18’ minute as UNC’s goalkeeper James Pyle made a misjudgment from how far the ball was from his position inside the box as he slides into VCU’s Luc Fatton. The referee pointed to the spot signaling a Black & Gold penalty kick as Dakota Barnathan scored VCU’s equalizer off the PK.
Less that a minute later VCU took the lead off of a set piece. Jorge Herranz booted the free kick just outside the near the post as Lyndsey Moreland leaped into the air and chipped in the go-ahead goal. To the shock of many in attendance at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels for the first time this season trailed as VCU lead 2-1 in the 19’ minute.
Just over the half-hour mark, the Tar Heels evened things up once again as Zach Wright was able to control the ball surrounded by multiple VCU defenders inside the box. Wright got just enough power in his pass to the left side as Tucker Hume hit a low ground strike to the right just past Pierre Gardan and into the net to level the score 2-2.
North Carolina’s offense continued to play aggressively as the Tar Heels unleashed 14 total shots in the 1st half. VCU were able to keep UNC at bay at the half-time buzzer heading into the locker room still drawn with the #2 nationally ranked team in men’s collegiate soccer.
A scary start to the 2nd half for the Rams as Juan Fajardo Ortiz went down with an ankle injury just three minutes in. Ortiz was able to continue play after twisting his ankle and being cleared by the athletic trainer.
Both teams started to settle into the flow of the match becoming more patient. UNC still had control over possession while playing at a calmer pace as the Tar Heel continued moving the ball around the pitch. VCU was stuck ball chasing while spread out in a more defensive set looking to launch a counter attack after regaining ball control.
Rafael Andrade Santos created a promising chance for VCU after getting fouled by UNC just outside the 18-yard line. Santos set up the free kick for the Rams and spun the opportunity over the goal in the 65’ minute.
Santos was VCU’s playmaker in the 2nd half and created another chance with 15 minutes remaining in the match. After intercepting a bad UNC pass on their side of the pitch, Santos passed it forward towards Luc Fatton in the box. Fatton felt some contact from UNC’s defense upon releasing a shot just wide of the goal.
Pierre Gardan did his best as VCU’s goalkeeper to keep the Rams in the match in final moments with two consecutive saves in the 80’ minute.
North Carolina seized on a late 2nd half error off a VCU pass near the Rams penalty area at the 82’ minute mark. Tucker Hume intercepted the ball then after a few touches near the VCU 18 yard line followed by Hume’s second goal of the match and a possible game-winner for the Tar Heels.
As UNC celebrated, VCU loathed in grief. Eli Lockaby gave the Rams one last glimmer of hope in the 85’ minute as he took one more shot. Lockaby got by the UNC defense and balance near the sidelines before taking his shot as Pyle dove down to make the game-clinching save.
The final whistle was blown and for the third consecutive match of the season, VCU suffered defeat in heartbreaking fashion.
A good showing by the Rams against elite competition however once again the results don’t fall VCU’s way on the night. Next up for VCU is a date with Radford at Sports Backers on Friday, September 9th. Kick-off slated for 7 PM.