Photo courtesy UNC Athletic Communications
Carolina men’s soccer is looking for it all this year. In 2016, they made it to the College Cup in Houston, only to lose in a 10-round penalty shootout to Stanford that may have taken years off my life with the stress it induced. Just yesterday it was announced that the Tar Heels were No. 4 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. This number, while meaningful in terms of talent and expectations being set for the year, doesn’t faze head coach Carlos Somoano’s men.
“Honestly, I did not know we were preseason No. 4 until you mentioned it,” said redshirt junior Andy López. “I guess it is pretty cool, but we do not pay attention to it. We try to go out every day to get better and to be the best we could possibly be.”
A midfielder from Texas, López has been back on campus for a week, getting ready for official preseason practice to start on Aug. 8 by participating in what the team calls 'Captain’s Practice.'
“It's always my favorite time of the year, because you get to meet the new faces and reunite with the old ones. All we do is play pickup games and hang out with each other, so it's a fun time,” he said. “The games have been competitive so far."
"It feels good to be able to compete again with my teammates.”
Competing this season is what these men have had on their mind since the moment they left Houston without a title last December. It’s not a bitter emotion though, Lopez says; it’s a driving force.
With seniors like Alan Winn, David October, and Zach Wright returning to add speed, skill, and leadership alongside their dangerously gifted sophomores that include Mauricio Pineda and 2016 ACC Freshman of the Year Cam Lindley, there is no question as to whether or not this team has the skill and talent to keep going well into December. The talent stockpiled on the Tar Heels' roster is enough to merit extra preparation from opponents this fall.
“I'm excited about the whole season,” López said. “I'm excited to work every day with my teammates to achieve our team goals of winning everything."
"After leaving Houston empty-handed last year, we all want to get back there and finish the business.”
The men and women’s soccer teams both made it to their respective Final Fours in 2016, and for the women’s soccer team this is expectation based off of their illustrious history. Despite two national championships in their pocket, a history of winning the ACC’s Coastal Division and talented players being drafted into the MLS, the men's soccer program is the less-awarded of the two when it comes to hardware.
It’s not that there is only one spotlight, though; there are two spotlights. As it has been claimed in recent years, Carolina is a soccer school. And López said the men's soccer team doesn't feel overshadowed by its sister program.
“They do their thing, and we do ours. We support them. They support us,” he said. “We're all a big Tar Heel soccer family, and I've never felt like we were in their shadow.”
For both teams, home will be away from Fetzer this year due to construction of their new stadium. The Tar Heels will play all of their matches off-campus in Cary. López said he's seen pictures of the new stadium and thinks it'll be an incredible experience playing there before returning to the team's new complex for his senior year.
“Not being able to play on Fetzer will be a bummer because that field and stadium is unreal, but where we play won't affect the way we play,” said López, echoing the statements made by Annie Kingman of the women’s team.
"We will try to win everything anywhere we go."
At Argyle Report, we’ve been talking a lot about music and making playlists for a different kind of behind-the-scenes look at the teams of Carolina. As a result, I couldn’t hold back and had to ask my friend Andy just what he’s been listening to in order to get his excitement up for the season. My asking is partially for selfish purposes, as López is loyal to Apple Music while I’ve got a Spotify account, making it impossible for me to stalk his music choices on the down-low.
What has López been listening to in order to get back into the swing of things, is finally privy to both me and you. “I've been listening to all types of music really,” said López. “Around this time, I do listen to more Spanish music and a bit of Afro beats,” he divulges. “But everyone has their own thing.”
Whether this information influences what you listen to as you drive to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary to watch the Heels play this season or not, this group of highly talented and dedicated men are ready to start their season and have the drive to go forward and win it all.