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Men’s Preview: ACC action begins

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: September 12, 2019

Below are five of the top matches to watch this weekend.

Friday, September 13

Akron (0-3) at No. 21 Maryland (1-2), 6:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)

Slow starts to the 2019 season for both programs make the rematch of last year’s national title game has last some of its luster. However, it will be interesting to see how that bears out on the field. Will both Akron and Maryland each both want to win this desperately or simply not want to lose? The Zips have struggled to get help offensively for David Egbo, and have conceded two goals in all three losses. Maryland scored twice on the road against UCLA, and need Brayan Padilla and Eric Matzelevich to continue to ascend into prominent roles.

No. 3 Virginia (3-0) at No. 7 Duke (4-0), 6 p.m. (ESPNU)

One of two ACC clashes featuring two teams with perfect records, Virginia travels south to Durham to provide the Blue Devils with their most difficult test of the season. If the Cavaliers can find a way to shackle Daniele Proch, it’s going to go a long way in securing at least a point away from home. The senior has accounted for half the team’s 10 goals, albeit their two wins came last weekend against overmatched Ivy League opponents. Sergi Nus will face his old program, and the graduate transfer has slotted in nicely for Duke, playing all but two minutes so far this season. There’s every reason to believe this could be a low-scoring, tight affair. Daryl Dike’s looked sharp early on for Virginia, while Scandinavian freshmen Andreas Ueland and Axel Gunnarsson have slotted in as major contributors through three games.

No. 12 Clemson (4-0) at No. 15 Notre Dame (3-0), 7 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)

It’s difficult to know just how good the Tigers are entering this match, as their schedule has been relatively easy up to this point. They’ve made the most of it, beating Detroit, South Carolina and USC Upstate by comfortable margins. Kimarni Smith, Grayson Barber and Robbie Robinson have hit the ground running, providing ample goal-scoring options as a trip to South Bend represents a massive uptick in opposition quality. Jack Lynn and Aidan McFadden top the team in scoring with three and two respectively, and the three-game win streak Notre Dame rides includes two in a row at home. There should be goals in this one, and on the other side of a match, both programs will have a clearer picture of where they stand.

No. 23 North Carolina (2-1-1) at No. 17 Virginia Tech (4-0), 7 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)

After a rocky opening weekend, losing and draw against UCF and Creighton, the Tar Heels have since spun off a pair of wins in a row against Harvard and UNC Greensboro. Finally getting his chance up front, Alex Rose has delivered through four games, scoring four times and setting up a pair of goals. Heading to Blacksburg for the ACC opener is no small test. The Hokies have a chance to make their case as a top-tier program in both the conference and the nation after spinning off four straight wins to start the campaign. Kristo Stricker’s picked up where he left off in 2018, scoring three goals and adding an assist. Both teams have conceded their share of goals, and it’ll be interesting to see if this game is played on the front foot or with a more conservative approach.

Sunday, September 15

No. 9 Kentucky (2-1-1) at No. 20 Charlotte (3-0-1), 3 p.m. (conferenceusa.com)

The ACC isn’t the lone conference to open league play this weekend. Conference USA gets in on the action, and Kentucky’s trip to Charlotte offers a chance for the 49ers to peg back last season’s dominant side. It’s no surprise to see the Wildcats come back to earth a bit, as the finishing edge of JJ Williams is missed. Case in point from Wednesday’s 2-2 home draw against a good Xavier side, where UK outshot their Big East opponents 23-6 but couldn’t find a winner. Finding goals against Charlotte, which is always tough, prepared and difficult to score on under head coach Kevin Langan, is going to be a big challenge. Five different players have already scored for Charlotte, which enters this match coming off a 0-0 draw against West Virginia.

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