By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — After an offseason with a lot of roster turnover, North Carolina will need the type of leadership fifth-year midfielder Milo Garvanian gave the Tar Heels in Thursday’s opener.
Garvanian (top photo) notched a goal and an assist in the first half to lead No. 24 UNC to a dominant 2–1 victory at Dorrance Field over Air Force to remain undefeated in openers under 12th-year Coach Carlos Somoano.
When Garvanian, who had as many shots as the Falcons (3) and assisted on Key White’s slick second-half goal, decided to return for another season, he gave UNC (1–0–0) a veteran presence after starting every game last season, collecting 10 points.
“I hope so,” Garvanian said when asked about his leadership. “I think everyone on the team that comes in is expected to be a leader, so I’m just doing my part.”
Other than one breakdown that led to the Falcons’ only first-half shot, their only goal and a brief Air Force lead, the Tar Heels controlled most of the game and dominated possession time (68%–32%).
Somoano’s explanation was simple for the impressive opener: “We’ve got really good players. Great job by the guys. We gave them the framework, and then they’ve got to paint.”
It’s a season of transition for Carolina a year after finishing last season 11–7–2 and unranked. While there are 22 players back from last season, the roster also features 18 newcomers, including 12 freshmen and six transfers, on a team picked to finish second in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
“Yeah, we have a really interesting mix,” Somoano said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys, but we have some core guys that have been around the program that are helping kind of acclimate the new fellows and kind of tried to maintain the core principles of our program and help me because it’s hard to communicate the vision.”
UNC lost three key defenders but brought in German Til Zinnhardt, a graduate transfer from Tulsa.
“I think what you saw tonight is probably exactly what he does give you,” Samoano said of Zinnhardt. “He’s pretty steady.”
UNC has three of its five top scorers from last season in junior midfielder Ernest Bawa, senior midfielder Cameron Fisher and Garvanian.
Tega Ikoba, last season’s leading scorer, left a big void when he joined the Portland Timbers of the MLS. St. Mary’s graduate transfer midfielder Sebastian Schacht should help on offense.
Carolina, which lost goalkeeper Alec Smir, started redshirt freshman Andrew Cordes, a transfer from Portland.
The Falcons jumped to a lead in the fourth minute when Thaddaeus Dewing got away in transition and easily slipped a shot past Cordes on their only shot of the first half.
“We kind of goofed one up there,” Somoano said. “We’re looking pretty good and all of a sudden, you blink, and we’re down at 1-0. How did that happen? And being able to bounce back and not panic or freak out and have one mistake turn into another. Or, just because we make a mistake doesn’t mean we have to lose the game. So that was really positive.”
Garvanian got the equalizer for UNC in the 30th minute on a left-footed shot just inside the box for an unassisted goal after a pass deflected off a defender.
White, a redshirt junior forward, gave Carolina the lead for good by working past two defenders after taking a long pass from Garvanian, then firing in a tough-angle shot from the right side of the box in the 44th minute to give UNC a 2–1 halftime lead.
‘s good just to come on the field and make an impact,” White said.
Somoano calls White “lightning in a bottle.”
“He’s just so explosive,” Somoano said of White. “I don’t care if you prepare for him. It’s hard to deal with him. And had he been a little cleaner with the ball, he probably would have had a couple more right. He gives us a real spark.”
NOTES: The United Soccer Coaches named Zinnhardt on Thursday as one of 39 Division I players on the Hermann Trophy Watch list. … The Tar Heels return home Sunday at 7:30 p.m. to face South Florida (ACC Network Extra). … In addition to players from 15 states, there are 13 from other countries represented on UNC’s roster: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Mexico, New
No. 24 UNC 2, Air Force 1
|14||Sunday||W, 3–0||USC Upstate||Home||Exhibition|
|15||Monday||T, 1–1||Mount Olive||Home||Exhibition|
|19||Friday||W, 2–0||James Madison||Harrisonburg, Va.||Exhibition|
|25||Thursday||W, 2–1||Air Force||Home||1–0–0|
|28||Sunday||W, 1–0||South Florida||Home||2–0–0|
|3||Saturday||L, 2–1||Fla. International||Home||2–1–0|
|9||Friday||L, 1–0||Pittsburgh||Home||2–2–0, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 1–0||East Tennessee State||Home||3–2–0|
|16||Friday||T, 1–1||No. 2 Duke||Durham||3–2–1, |
|20||Tuesday||T, 0–0||UNC Wilmington||Home||3–2–2|
|24||Saturday||W, 1–0||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||4–2–1, |
|3||Monday||L, 1–0||Clemson||Home||4–3–1, |
|7||Friday||W, 2–0||Virginia Tech||Home||5–3–1, |
|11||Tuesday||W, 1–0||Virginia Commonwealth||Home||6–3–1|
|14||Friday||T, 2–2||N.C. State||Raleigh||6–3–2, |
|21||Friday||T, 1–1||Boston College||Newton, Mass.||6–4–3, |
|25||Tuesday||W, 3–0||William & Mary||Williamsburg, Va.||7–4–3|
|28||Friday||T, 2–2||No. 14 Virginia||Home||7–4–5, |
|2||Wednesday||W, 1–0||Boston College||Home||8–4–5|
|6||Sunday||L, 1–0||No. 4 Syracuse||Syracuse||8–5–5|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications