The Pack Pull Off the Impossible

RALEIGH – At 9:09 PM, the NC State Men’s Soccer Team walked off of Dail Soccer Field with their heads held high after they had just upset the #3 nationally ranked Clemson Tigers thanks to an early goal.  There were quite a few chances for each side throughout the match and some high tension, but the goalie’s on each side of the pitch were great. The Wolfpack luckily were able to make the sole breakthrough.

Right as the kickoff whistle sounded, the Tigers were on the prowl.  They had nearly complete control of the ball in the early minutes and looked to be ready to net a goal early on.  However, they got careless in their attack. The Pack were able to catch them sleeping on the counter attack and State was off to the races.  This is where true freshman Emanuel Perez had the lone shining moment. His shot deflected off of Clemson’s keeper and found the back of the net in just the 7th minute.  After celebrating with the ecstatic fans, the team new they still had a long challenge ahead of them.

Even after the goal, Clemson still kept the ball, for the most part, in their attacking third.  They seemed to not have learned much from their mistakes, because the Pack soon got yet another open counter attack.  An over the top through ball to Tanner Roberts allowed him to fire a shot just wide of the post.  The Roberts show wasn’t done yet, either.  Just moments later, he forced the opposing goalie to make an incredibly acrobatic save that kept the score 1-0.

The biggest scare of the night was shortly after the ball began being kicked back and forth across the pitch pretty evenly.  An attack opened up for Clemson and the home team got sloppy and allowed a free kick a little outside the box. The ensuing free kick was perfectly met by the head of Clemson’s striker… but nope, the offsides flag was up by the sideline referee.  That still wasn’t a chance for the Pack back line to relax, though. Although not many of them were met successfully, Clemson continued crossing the ball into the box. In the 30th minute came one of the Tiger’s best chances on another header. It was to no avail though because Leon Krapf was up to the challenge with an acrobatic save of his own.

The intensity continued to build up and culminated with 10 minutes to go in the half.  A collision involving Clemson’s goalie that forced him to come off resulted in a scuffle causing a yellow to be shown to Sweeney.  The Pack almost let this incident cause them to lose focus, but Krapf and his heroics were there once again as he made a save right before the half came to a close.

When the second half began, surely Krapf thought he’d be able to relax a little.  That was not the case, in just the 46th minute he made yes, another great save.  After that chance from Clemson, the game really slowed itself down.  There was a lot of lackluster play throughout the second half where the teams mostly took turns giving away possession to each other.  The lapse in play left an opening for the student section to begin heckling Clemson’s backup goalie more than usual.

As the half progressed, Clemson was able to manage to string some nice passing together, but just about every time they had to pull the trigger to shoot, there was the backline for the Wolfpack to put an end to it.  Similarly to the first half, there were some occasional chances for the home team to take advantage of the attacking formation Clemson had. They even got another shot off that went just wide of the post again, but they just couldn’t establish consistent ball control against the third best team in the country.

You could tell that the Tigers really upped their intensity and began religiously firing crosses into the box.  Here State was again, they once again gave away a free kick right outside the box. Once again, Krapf made a miraculous save off post.  Clemson was coming closer and closer, but couldn’t get through. You could sense this growing feeling of frustration out of Clemson’s play.  It finally got the best of them when in the 71st minute, Diego Campos of the Tigers was shown a straight red for a sliding challenge gone wrong.

Even being a man down, Clemson had to throw men forward in the final 20 minutes of the match.  This significantly opened up the run of play. Both sides were going back and forth with decent chances to score, but this match just simply did not have another goal in itself.  

The North Carolina State Wolfpack officially pulled off the upset, giving them their biggest win of the young season, and a reason to hear the crowd roar.