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Men’s Soccer Roundup: Tigers Roll Past Pittsburgh and Charlotte

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Clemson routs the competition

Mike Potempa

This Clemson squad is something to behold. Put aside the Great Student Section Controversy of 2017 and the Etiemergence for a minute and give this team some plaudits. In the past three matches the Tigers of men’s soccer have put up a 10-1 scoreline against quality competition. That is an absurd scoreline. The attack has been deadly and the defense has been rock solid. The midfield has been, in short, dominant. Diego Campos is in top form and Oliver Shannon is a man on a mission. Malick Mbaye oozes class on a weekly basis, and Ximo Miralles has posted some stellar numbers in goal. Mike Noonan is the man directing the symphony, and right now he looks like a true maestro.

The Tigers will need all of that firepower on Friday, when they take on no. 2 Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons lost last year’s National Championship match, but they have enough talent to win it all this time around. This is the best collection of attacking talent Clemson will face all year. Forward Jon Bakero is the senior leader of the team, and perhaps the best player in the nation. He has racked up 6 goals and 10 assists already. Bakero stands tall at 6’3’’. He boasts considerable technique and an eye for a pass. He is a weapon from set pieces, and he provides some of the best holdup play you’ll see in the college game. Elon transfer Luis Argudo has been the beneficiary of Bakero’s prowess, and he leads the team with 7 goals. Lately he has been an unstoppable force out on the wing. Meanwhile, sophomore winger Ema Twumasi brings 5 goals of his own to the table. All three players project as MLS-level talent. Wake Forest is also solid in the center of the park. The defense, though, is vulnerable and less experienced. The Demon Deacons haven’t faced an attack of Clemson’s caliber this season, and Noonan will try to exploit that matchup. Settle in for a classic.

Friday can’t come soon enough, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look back at the last two matches in the meantime. Before you point out that time is not necessarily linear, and that perhaps all events and all games are happening at once, and that the outcome of the Wake Forest match is both determined and undetermined, and that my experience with time is relative, I ask you to indulge my linear narrative. It’s cleaner, okay? Give me this one thing, Jaden Smith. Jeez.

Pittsburgh (Friday 9/22)

Starting XI (4-3-3):

  • GK: Ximo Miralles
  • LB: Michael Melvin
  • LCB: Patrick Bunk-Andersen
  • RCB: Malick Mbaye
  • RB: Grayson Raynor
  • DM: Andrew Burnikel
  • DM: Tanner Dieterich
  • CAM: Oliver Shannon
  • LW: Diego Campos
  • ST: Jason Wright
  • RW: Harrison Kurtz

On Friday, Clemson downed the Pittsburgh Panthers 3-0. The Panthers never looked like they were going to keep up. Despite the talents of Clemson transfer Mauriq Hill at center back, Pittsburgh couldn’t handle the Clemson front line. Campos was particularly electric, and he opened the scoring at the 32’ mark. After some nice holdup play from substitute Robbie Robinson, the Clemson no. 10 fired a finish into the top corner, past the outstretched fingertips of the leaping goalkeeper. Clemson went into the half with a 1-0 lead, thanks to the goal and some strong play from the back four.

Campos shared the wealth thirteen minutes into the second half. Operating from the wing, he sliced the ball through a pack of defenders and into the box. Oliver Shannon settled the low cross with his first touch and poked the ball over the line with his second. Robbie Robinson placed a cap on the proceedings twenty minutes later with a header that brushed off the hands of the goalkeeper and into the net. The goal was the first of his young career. Mike Noonan looked pleased with the win.

Although Pitt is one of the worst teams in the ACC, Tiger fans can still rejoice in the victory. Clemson really seemed to click on all cylinders. Noonan’s experiment with Oliver Shannon as an attacking midfielder showed some promise. The senior ran the Panthers’ defense ragged, and he was disciplined in the press. His presence and the presence of Andrew Burnikel as an additional defensive midfielder seemed to free up Tanner Dieterich as a deep creative force. The back line looked relatively untroubled too. Patrick Bunk-Andersen proved his worth with an excellent performance. The masked man Ximo Miralles continued his impressive run.

Charlotte (Tuesday 9/26)

Starting XI (4-3-3):

  • GK: Ximo Miralles
  • LB: Cale Thorne
  • LCB: Patrick Bunk-Andersen
  • RCB: Malick Mbaye
  • RB: Justin Malou
  • DM: Tanner Dieterich
  • DM: Oliver Shannon
  • CAM: Harrison Kurtz
  • LW: Diego Campos
  • ST: Jason Wright
  • RW: Robbie Robinson

It turns out the Tigers have two masked men! Cale Thorne, who also doubles as a particularly prickly superfood, was sporting the clear headgear alongside Ximo on Tuesday. Thorne put in a quality performance at left fullback in place of Michael Melvin. However, he wasn’t the only substitute who moved into a starting role in the 4-1 victory against the Charlotte 49ers. Justin Malou, who is becoming a reliable fifth man in the defense, took over for Grayson Raynor at right fullback. Robbie Robinson moved back into the starting lineup as well, and he impressed with good movement and a goal to boot. Robinson has now scored in consecutive matches, which can only be a good sign as the Tigers go forward.

In fact, this match was full of good signs. Clemson downed a fringe-Top 25 team with ease. The Tiger victory opened with an own goal from Charlotte at the 2’ mark. Though he won’t get the credit in the stat sheet, Jason Wright forced the deflection with a clever run into the box. Charlotte did prove to be capable of scoring intentionally about 20 minutes later, when Tanner Dieterich lost track of Tommy Madden on the counterattack. Cale Thorne was left with little time to react as Madden stormed into the box. Ximo got a hand on the low shot, but the ball still slipped through. The first half ended with the score 1-1.

The Clemson attack came alive in the second half. Jason Wright gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead in the 57th minute. He jinked around a couple of well-meaning but helpless defenders after receiving the ball on a Diego Campos corner, and preceded to slot the ball in at the near post. Oliver Shannon added to the goals nine minutes later with a filthy, curling strike from outside the box. The captain was full of energy throughout the match, and he deserved the goal. Robinson’s goal came on a cross from Robbie Jacobs at the 84’ mark. The cross was fantastic, and all Robinson had to do was tap in. Once again, the Tigers rolled over a quality team.

Watch this space for more recaps and analysis in the coming weeks. Oh, and please watch as Clemson takes on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. That should be a good one.

Upcoming Match

Clemson at Wake Forest

Time: 6:00 p.m. (EST)

Date: Friday, 9/29

Media: ESPNU