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University of North Carolina 2018 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  University of North Carolina
Conference:  Atlantic Coast
Coach:  Carlos Somoano – Eighth season 
2017 Record:  17-4-1 – 6-1-1 in conference play 
2017 Final Season Ending Rank:  3 College Soccer News, 4 United Soccer Coaches 
Key Personnel Losses from the 2017 Team:  Forwards Alan Winn and Zach Wright and midfielder David October due to graduation.  Midfielder Cam Lindley who elected to enter the professional ranks after his sophomore season.  

Five Year Win Total:

2013:    9

2014:  15

2015:  15

2016:  14

2017:  17

2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  53 scored – 19 allowed
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game:  2.42 scored – 0.86 allowed 
2017 Key Statistic:  13.2 shots per game as compared to 7.3 shots per game for opponents 

Background:  North Carolina has a banner history in men's soccer.  The Tar Heels have been among the most successful programs in the country over the past ten seasons. 

North Carolina is 107-26-21 overall during the seven seasons that Carlos Somoano has been at the helm of the program.  That makes Somoano the current active leader in winning percentage (.638) among all NCAA Division I men's soccer coaches. 

UNC has earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament a total of twenty-five times including seventeen out of the last eighteen season.  During the past ten seasons the Tar Heels have earned one of the top sixteen seeds in the NCAA Tournament seven times and advanced to the Elite Eight eight times.  North Carolina has played their way into the College Cup (Final Four) a total of eight times including six times in the last ten seasons with the most recent being the 2016 and 2017 seasons. 

UNC won the national championship in 2001 and 2011.  

The Tar Heels have been a force in the competitive the Atlantic Coast Confernece – winning the Coastal Divison Title the past three season in a row. 

In 2017 midfielder Cam Lindley and forward Alan Winn were named to the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News All-America Teams.  Lindley was honored as the Atlantic Coast Conference Midfielder of the Year.  Lindley and forward Alan Winn were Atlantic Coast Conference First Team selections.    

Forward Zach Wright was named to the All-ACC Second Team.  Defender Alex Comsia and midfielder Mauricio Pineda All-ACC Third Team selections and defender John Nelson was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team.  

Number Starters Returning in 2018:  Eight


Coach Somoano stated, " I have no doubt this group will represent our athletic department and soccer program's core values with great pride and responsibility.  We look forward to getting them on campus and integrating them into our culture."

Henrik Bredeli – Defender – Norway – Trained with Stromsgodeset's first team and played in fify matches with Stromsgodset's second team.  Played in fifty-four youth national team matches with Norway's U-15-U-19 teams. 

Matthew Constant – Defender – Dallas, Texas – Junior transfer from the University of New Mexico where he started in eighteen games as a sophomore.  Played with the U-20 Canadian Team.  Played for the Dallas Texans.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 27 prospect in the country.  Played with the U.S. U-17 National Team. 

Milo Garvanian – Midfielder – Albuquerque, New Mexico – Played for the Colorado Rapids in the USSDA.  Named to Academy Central Conference Best XI in 2017.

Sam Jones – Midfielder – Cardiff, Wales – Junior transfer who played for two seasons at Young Harris College. Named to All-Southeast Region Team.  Peach Belt First-Team All-Conference selection as a sophomore. 

Roman Knox – Midfielder – Shawnee, Kansas – Rockhurst High School – Played with Sporting KC Academy.  Team captain.    

Antonio Lopez – Midfielder – Austin, Texas – Played with Lonestar SC for nine seasons.  Team captain. 

Taff Wada – Forward – Bracknell, England – Saint Andrews School – Junior transfer who played for two seasons at Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Scored twenty-six goals and contributed eleven assists. All-State selection. 

Jake Walker – Defender – Davie, Florida – Played with Weston Academy for five seasons.  Team captain.  Member of the Jamaican national team pool.

Jaxson Watermann – Forward – Harrisburg, South Carolina – Member of the Carolina Rapids in the USSDA.  

Outlook for 2018 Season:  It would be foolish to ignore the potential impact of the loss of midfiedlers Cam Lindley (7g, 13a) and David October (3g, 0a) and forwards Alan Winn (11g, 2a) and Zach Wright (4g, 11a).  Collectively they were responsible for twenty-three of the fifty-three goals and twenty-six of the fifty assists that the Tar Heels tallied last year.  Perhaps the real issue is whether or not North Carolina can replace the big play ability they provided in clutch situations.  

Nonetheless, the Tar Heels have so much talent returning across the board that it would be foolish to expect a decline in performance.  The more likely senario is that the departures provide a talented and hungry contingent of returning players the opportunity to step forward and shine.  You can bet the farm that the players who will be asked to play a greater role in 2018 will not be intimidated by the increase in minutes they will receive.   

The fact that North Carolina topped Clemson, Georgetown, Virginia, Wake Forest and Duke to go undefeated in the inaugural U.S. Soccer Spring College Program is an indication of that the Tar Heels are talented and experienced.  During those five contests they looked solid on both sides of the ball placing thirteen in the back of the frame while only allowing two goals in route to posting three shutouts.  

Redshirt junior Jelani Pieters (9g, 7a) who had a breakout season last year returns to lead the attack up-top.  He will joined by senior Nils Bruening who missed the 2017 season due to injury and highly regarded sophomores Lucas Del Rosario (4g, 3a), Alex Rose (1g, 0a), Giovanni Montesdeoca (4g, 1a) and Julius Momkus who did not play in 2017 due to injury.  All are proven goal scorers. 

Perhaps the most interesting players to watch up-top will be Bruening and Rose. Bruening netted eight goals for the Tar Heels while healthy in 2016.  Rose had a very productive summer placing eight in the back of the net while playing with the Ocean City Nor'easters in the USL's Premier Development League. Junior transfer Taff Wada from Bethel University is among the members of the recruiting class with the potential to contribute right away.     

Lindley, who was ranked by College Soccer News as the number one player coming out of the class of 2016, lived up to expectations during the two seasons he was in Chapel Hill.  Lindley was a playmaker and pace setter as relected in his twenty career goals who will not be easily replaced. 

Look for junior midfielder Mauricio Pineda (3g, 1a), who was ranked by College Soccer News as the number six recruit in the class of 2016, to be one of the go-to guys for the Tar Heels in 2018.  Pineda is a prime timer with two successful seasons under his belt.  He will emerge as one of the top impact players in the country in 2018.  Juniors Jeremy Kelly (2g, 3a) and Jack Skahan (2g, 3a) who were starters last year also return to play key roles in the midfield.   

Sophomore Raul Aguilera (1g, 1a) who saw action in twelve contests last year, juniors Alex Moztarzadeh and Martin Salas, and seniors Jesus Bolivar, David Mejia (0g, 1a) and Zack Olofson are among other returning linkmen who will seek to play a greater role in 2018.  Junior transfer Sam Jones who played two seasons at Young Harris College should also challenge for minutes in the midfield.  

The backline looks to be a team strength.  Senior Alex Comsia who led the Tar Heels in minutes played last year returns at center back.  Sophomores John Nelson (1g, 1a) and Mark Salas (0g, 2a) who were starters last year now have the added advantage of a year of experience under their belts.  Junior Will Campbell, sophomore Liam Williams, and redshirt freshman Charlie Forecast are among other returning backs. Junior transfer Matthew Constant who was a starter last year at the University of New Mexico is among the newcomers who should be in the hunt for playing time in the back.  

The Tar Heels are loaded with talent in goal.  Senior James Pyle who missed a large portion of the 2017 season due to injury returns with three years of starting experience under his belt.  Sophomore Alex Smir who started eleven contests last year and sophomore Drew Romig who had three starts in 2017 also return between the pipes to give North Carolina three exceptionally talented netminders. 

For the second year in a row, the Tar Heels will be unable to play their home games at Fetzer Field on the campus of UNC which is still undergoing contruction.  As a result, five of their home contests will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary including a crucial early season contest on August 26 against Indiana and three will take place at Koskinen Stadium which is the home of rival Duke University.

What has become the norm for the men's soccer program at North Carolina?  Not much – just advancing to the College Cup (Final Four).  If everything falls into place, the Tar Heels should be back there again in 2018.  

Posted in 2018 Team Reviews

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