CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The No. 7 California Golden Bears (0-1-0) fell 3-1 on the road to the No. 22 North Carolina Tar Heels (1-0-0) on Friday night in front of 4,102 at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C. to open the 2014 campaign. The Bears fell behind 2-0 in the first half with goals from North Carolina seniors Tyler Engel and Andy Craven, but were energized by substitute Christian Thierjung, who opened his account to pull Cal back into the match before halftime. Though the Bears were in control and pushed repeatedly for an equalizer, it was North Carolina who finished things off with a third goal against the run of play in the 83rd minute by senior Rob Lovejoy.
"It's games like this that really allow us to improve and grow as a team," head coach Kevin Grimes said on Friday night from Fetzer Field.
Following a bit of back and forth through the first quarter of an hour, it was North Carolina who broke through first. In the 19th minute, senior forward Engel found himself in behind the Cal defense and finished into the far post past a diving Kevin Peach from just inside the area.
Cal threatened to level things at one apiece, and nearly did so in the 23rd minute, when redshirt freshman Jose Carrera-Garcia found himself in space behind the defense, but his pass past the keeper to a teammate was cleared away by Tar Heel defender Boyd Okwuonu. It was North Carolina who found the net again, as they doubled their lead in the 33rd minute when Lovejoy found his fellow senior Craven with a weighted through ball and his shot was deposited into the far post.
The Bears were not yet down however, as they pulled one back in the 36th minute. Freshman Paul Salcedo, who had just checked into the match, found an unmarked Christian Thierjung with a square ball. The sophomore from Dove Canyon, Calif. finished coolly to the far post to pull Cal within a goal before halftime for the team’s first goal of the season.
The Golden Bears took control of the match from that point, continually pushing to equalize. Several chances were turned away time and time again by North Carolina senior goalkeeper Brenden Moore, who finished the evening with eight saves. None was more impressive than his 47th minute stop on senior forward Stefano Bonomo, who was picked out perfectly by co-captain midfielder Seth Casiple’s cross to the back post. Bonomo’s pacey header seemed earmarked for the top corner, but Moore was able to push it just over the bar.
Bonomo was stymied once again in the 63rd minute, when a flick from Casiple set up the Hillsborough, Calif. native with a point blank chance. He connected well, but Moore made himself big and kept the Heels in front.
Though the pressure was almost exclusively in the Bears’ attacking third for the second half, Lovejoy added a goal to his earlier assist and made it 3-1 for North Carolina when he finished his chance in the 83rd minute. North Carolina was able to break on the counter attack as the Bears pushed to level the match, and a fortuitous deflection saw Lovejoy through one-on-one with Peach. Lovejoy capped his evening as he pushed his shot from close range past the redshirt senior goalkeeper.
The Bears conclude their east coast trip to open the season on Sunday, as they take on the No. 11 Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Spry Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. at 4 p.m. PT. Fans are encouraged to follow along with live stats and on Twitter @CalMensSoccer for up to the minute updates. Wake Forest lost their opener 3-1 on Friday to another Pac-12 school, No. 4 UCLA. Following Sunday’s fixture, Cal returns home to open Edwards Stadium in 2014 with a match against Cleveland State on Friday, Sept. 12 at 1 p.m. PT.