*The Hoosier Network will give analysis of every IU men’s soccer opponent this season in the days leading up to each matchup. This Sunday, the Hoosiers will travel to North Carolina to face No. 3 North Carolina*
After losing to No. 5 Wake Forest in its first game of the season, Indiana will remain in the state of North Carolina for the rest of the weekend for its second game in three days. The Hoosiers will travel east to Cary, North Carolina to face the No. 3 Tar Heels in what will be another top-five matchup.
North Carolina was victorious in its first game of the season, defeating East Tennessee State 1-0. Junior forward Jelani Pieters scored the lone goal in the 80th minute for the Tar Heels en route to the first win of their 2018 season.
The North Carolina back line is as strong as any in the nation. Senior Alex Cosmia and sophomore John Nelson will be huge for the Tar Heels’ success this season. The duo, along with the rest of the defense, gave up just two shots on goal in the entirety of their first game. Even though it was against ETSU, it’s still an impressive feat to accomplish.
IU’s striker situation is a little bit alarming after their performances against Wake Forest. No striker got a single shot off all game. The Hoosier attacking line has to shake off the rust for the second game of the season because North Carolina is arguably better and more experienced than Wake Forest.
It’s hard to pinpoint a weakness within this squad. This is a team who is coming into 2018 as the preseason favorite to win the ACC according to Top Drawer Soccer. North Carolina returns seven players from its starting lineup the last time these two teams met in the College Cup last season.
Final: UNC 1, ETSU 0
Jelani Pieters scores the game-winning goal in the 79th minute as the Heels start the year with a win.
— UNC Men’s Soccer (@UNCmenssoccer) August 25, 2018
If there’s anything to look at, it has to be its attacking options. Pieters did score against ETSU, but it has yet to be determined how consistent he will be. IU looked dominant in defense for the majority of the game against Wake Forest, so the matchup between its defense and North Carolina’s attack could be a favorable one for the Hoosiers.
Jack Maher/Timmy Mehl vs. Jelani Pieters — North Carolina’s “weakness” brings me to my key matchup, which will be a mix of Jack Maher/Timmy Mehl vs. Jelani Pieters. The Tar Heels’ lone goal-scorer Friday night will be tasked to do it again against one of the best defenses in college soccer.
The Hoosier back line had few lapses throughout their first game, but when they did, it resulted in goals. That can’t happen against North Carolina if IU wants to come out with at least a win or draw in its second game of the weekend in North Carolina. Pieters registered three shots against ETSU, which were all on target.
Two high octane matches in one weekend can be grueling for any team.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) August 25, 2018
One to Watch
I’ll be watching Tar Heel sophomore midfielder Mauricio Pineda. He had the lone assist of the game against ETSU, and he’s coming off a stellar 2017 season in which he started all 22 games. He thrives in that midfield position, and it will be interesting to see how he does against IU. The Hoosiers are strong and deep in midfield, so it will definitely be strength against strength for both teams.
If you asked me who my pick would be to win the ACC this year off the top of my head, it would be North Carolina. They have a lot of experience on its squad and it remains to be seen how high the Tar Heels’ ceiling is this year.
Wake Forest will be another top-five team in the ACC, but I think North Carolina is a different breed of opponent. Tensions will be high in this one, especially after the College Cup matchup. We saw both teams start to get chippy in that one, so I expect the same this time around.