Another week, another top five match-up in men’s Division I soccer. This week’s marque showdown is between No. 3 Syracuse and No. 2 North Carolina. The Orange (8-1, 2-1) are trying to bounce back from a tough loss against Notre Dame. The late goal from Jon Gallagher allowed the Irish to secure all three points in the conference battle, and sent Syracuse home with its first loss of the season.
The Tar Heels (7-1, 3-0) have yet to give up a goal in conference play. Carlos Somoano’s side went on the road and defeated Clemson in the conference opener on Sept. 9, which is looking like one of the most impressive wins of the season for a relatively young North Carolina side. The group will be challenged once against on Friday when they head to New York to take on Syracuse at 7 p.m. (ET).
The players to watch in the game are a bunch of the young talents in college soccer. Syracuse freshman forward Johannes Pieles has been terrific through the first nine games of his career. Sophomore goalkeeper Hendrik Hilpert has also been stellar for the Orange with only only six goals conceded in nine games. Sophomore center back Miles Robinson already has some Generation adidas buzz thanks to his play at the collegiate level as well as his play with Tab Ramos’ U20 Men’s National Team.
North Carolina is equally as potent. Midfielder Cameron Lindley is hoping to join Robinson on the U20 side. His play through the first month of the season suggest he should be contention for a spot with that group. Lindley is a dead ball expert and is capable of punishing Syracuse for any fouls conceded in the attacking half. Redshirt freshman forward Nil Bruening started on the bench for the first time in his college career last week, and managed to score four goals in 41 minutes. He could find himself in a similar role on Friday as Somoano looks at other options to tire out the defense before brining on the German striker.
The battle in New York is the highlight of the sixth week of the season, but not the only noteworthy game on the docket in ACC play. No. 6 Clemson (6-1-1, 1-1-1) hosts No. 11 Wake Forest (8-1-1, 3-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. as well. The Tigers have had a challenging conference schedule to start the campaign, but the group is looking to build off the win against the physical Hokies from last week. Wake Forest is continuing to prove doubters wrong with another stellar campaign despite the losses from last season’s squad.
Out west, No. 12 UCLA (4-2-1) opens up conference play against Washington (6-2) on Thursday evening from Westwood. The Bruins were stunned last week in a 1-0 loss to Cal Poly on the road. The seemingly unstoppable UCLA attack was shutdown for 90 minutes against a Mustangs team that had not looked impressive this season up to that point. UCLA needs to bounce back against Washington, but the Huskies have been playing better soccer as of late. With Stanford struggling to find a rhythm, this opener from the Pac-12 could be quite meaningful in terms of who takes home the league title this season.
Five games to watch