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Men’s Soccer Roundup: Back in Business

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Clemson Tigers dispatch Boston College and UCLA

CFP National Championship Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

After a week spent writing essays and consuming massive helpings of college football, your favorite (and only) men’s soccer correspondent is back and better than ever. There’s a lot to discuss, but we’ll start with elephant in the room—the Clemson Tigers finally lost while I was away.

The 1-0 loss came in the ACC opener, against an underrated NC State team. Clemson was sloppy, and the game got chippy. Talisman Diego Campos received a red card for a poor two-footed tackle. I’m surprised that particular series of events didn’t occur sooner. Campos is a polarizing player, and he often displays the best and the worst of the game in a single match. He’s a handful for defenders, and he plays with a considerable amount of flair that the fans love to see. However, he also makes poor tackles and aggravates the opposition with theatrical dives. His dark side got the best of him in this match, and he harmed the team in the process. To add to the misery, goalkeeper Ximo Miralles broke his nose in the match. Now he must wear a mask that invites rather unfavorable comparisons to Hannibal Lecter. Don’t tease him, though, kids. The guy has been a rock in the back throughout the season, and with the mask on he has put up two consecutive clean sheets. I plan to petition for the mask as a permanent addition to his attire.

The Tigers had to wait for redemption. Hurricane Irma swept through, and authorities decided that it was best to cancel the match between Clemson and North Florida. Clemson. The teams plan to reschedule the meeting at a later date.

Without further Freddy Adu (heh), let’s get into the recaps and analysis.

Boston College (Friday 9/15)

Starting XI (4-3-3):

  • GK: Ximo Miralles
  • LB: Michael Melvin
  • LCB: Justin Malou
  • RCB: Malick Mbaye
  • RB: Grayson Raynor
  • CDM: Andrew Burnikel
  • CDM: Tanner Dieterich
  • CAM: Oliver Shannon
  • LW: Harrison Kurtz
  • ST: Jason Wright
  • RW: Saul Chinchilla

Clemson’s 1-0 defeat of the Boston College Eagles was a good result, considering the circumstances. Noonan continued to use the 4-3-3 that worked so well against South Carolina, but the personnel was significantly different. Saul Chinchilla started on the right wing in place of the suspended Campos. He was a solid outlet on the flank, and he provided some nice buildup play. I don’t expect him to hold down this role in the future, but he will certainly see time as a spot starter. Justin Malou, the freshman defender from Senegal, seems to be asserting himself on the backline. He is a good tackler and his positioning is routinely excellent. I’d like to see improvement in possession, and I’d like to see him to become more vocal. However, he’s still adjusting to the game at the college level. I’d expect him to see more time as his comfort level increases.

Andrew Burnikel, meanwhile, moved into the midfield. I need more data points to accurately assess his fitness for the role, but I liked what I saw. He sent some quality long balls over the top. One such long ball began the move that ended in the match’s only goal, and Tanner Dieterich’s first goal of the season. Dieterich slid a shot into the far corner, capitalizing on the excellent buildup play of Burnikel, Chinchilla, and Oliver Shannon. Shannon in particular was excellent in this match. In a somewhat unfamiliar attacking midfield role, he facilitated frequent Clemson attacks. The Boston College midfielders couldn’t deal with his pressing, and he won possession on multiple occasions. He provided crucial senior leadership to a team that was missing both Campos and Patrick Bunk-Andersen.

Clemson missed a number of chances to add to Dieterich’s goal. Jason Wright missed a sitter in the early going, and he was oddly ineffective throughout. He seemed to miss the presence of Campos. The defense was competent, if somewhat shaky in possession. The makeshift lineup certainly didn’t help the possession game. Despite these problems, Clemson managed to pull out a win. Boston College never looked too threatening. Regardless of the adversity, the Tigers got back on track.

UCLA (Tuesday 9/19)

Starting XI (3-4-3):

  • GK: Ximo Miralles
  • LWB: Michael Melvin
  • LCB: Justin Malou
  • CB: Patrick Bunk-Andersen
  • RCB: Malick Mbaye
  • RWB: Grayson Raynor
  • CM: Tanner Dieterich
  • CM: Oliver Shannon
  • LW: Diego Campos
  • ST: Jason Wright
  • RW: Harrison Kurtz

Noonan, perhaps dissatisfied with recent goalscoring output in the 4-3-3, decided to pivot back to the 3-4-3 against the UCLA Bruins. The team rewarded his tactical switch with a 3-0 win and a dominant performance. Campos, Bunk-Andersen, and young forward Kimarni Smith all landed in the goals column. Campos, who returned from a one game suspension, looked hungry from the beginning. He probed the back line, providing pesky pressing and some incisive runs. Wright looked reinvigorated by Campos’ presence, and the two formed a dangerous, fluid forward line alongside Harrison Kurtz.

That forwards didn’t take long to get started. Kurtz won a penalty at the edge of the box three minutes into the match. Campos stepped up to the spot and finished with ease, firing a rocket into the corner. The forwards continued to threaten, and the UCLA defense looked justifiably confused by the quick switching and the flurry of movement. Oliver Shannon and Tanner Dieterich established control in the midfield, setting the tempo and flying into tackles. The defense, meanwhile, put on its most dominant performance. The return of Bunk-Andersen seemed to provide some stability, and Mbaye was imperious, snuffing out attacks and starting attacks of his own with sharp passing. Malou looked comfortable to the left of the experienced Bunk-Andersen. The wingbacks were disciplined, and they did a solid job of picking their runs. Michael Melvin was a constant threat on the left side. Smith and Robbie Robinson performed admirably as substitutes for Kurtz and Wright in the latter portion of the first half. The half was statistically even, but Clemson looked like the better team.

The Tigers continued to dominate in the second half, and a second goal came at the 59’ mark. After a questionable foul, Campos curled a scrumptious little free kick into the box. Bunk-Andersen met the cross with a firm header into the corner. The center back is showing himself to be a real threat from set pieces. The UCLA goalkeeper probably should have stepped to the ball and punched it out, but Mike Noonan won’t complain. Smith, who looked like one of the best players on the pitch at times, added a goal of his own with 9 minutes to play. He made a curling run around the back shoulder of a defender, and he proceeded to tap in a low Grayson Raynor cross. Smith’s goal was the last of the night. Clemson emerged victorious. The no. 8 Tigers look to be back on track.

Upcoming Matches

Clemson vs. Pittsburgh

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Date: Friday, 9/22

Media: ACC Network Extra

Clemson vs. Charlotte

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Date: Tuesday, 9/26

Media: ACC Network Extra