With a 2-1 win over the 12th-seeded Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the ACC Championship, the fifth-seeded NC State men’s soccer team will head to Pennsylvania to take on fourth-seeded Pittsburgh on Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Wolfpack (9-5-3, 3-4-1 ACC) and the Panthers (8-6-2, 4-3-1 ACC) did not play in the regular season this year, but when the two met last season Pitt came away as 3-1 winners.
While the two did not play each other in ACC play, the two teams had six opponents in common from ACC play. The Panthers finished just three points above the Pack in the ACC standings but the Panthers had a slightly easier schedule in ACC play as they avoided playing ACC regular-season champions, Clemson.
Both of the teams faced Boston College, Virginia, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Duke and Syracuse. NC State took a total of seven points from those matches while the Panthers took 10.
The two teams that the Wolfpack played that the Panthers did not are Louisville (six seed, 10 points in regular season) and Clemson (one seed, 19 points in regular season). By comparison, the Panthers took on UNC-Chapel Hill (seven seed, nine points in regular season) and Virginia Tech (11 seed, eight points in regular season).
While the two teams’ records this season are similar, the way the teams go about getting those results is different. NC State is a defense-first team. Allowing just barely over a goal per game (1.12) this season, the Pack’s 3-4-2-1 formation allows the team to be solid at the back while not giving up any of its midfield creativity.
Where the Wolfpack lacks is in the attack as it scores just 1.32 goals per game. This again is likely down to the formation as sophomore forward Kuda Muskwe plays as a lone striker and the wide midfielders have a lot of defensive duties. The two attacking midfielders under Muskwe, junior David Loera and senior Gabriel Machado, are amazing creators but the Pack is often outnumbered when going forward.
By comparison, Pitt scores two goals per game and concede 1.38 per game. The Panthers are led in attack by a pair of international players in Ugandan forward Edward Kizza and Serbian midfielder Veljko Petkovic. Kizza has racked up nine goals and four assists in just under 1,300 minutes played this season and Petkovic has grabbed six goals and five assists in under 1,000 minutes.
The two teams are also incredibly closely matched, with the Pack’s redshirt senior keeper Vinnie Durand boasting a .627 save percentage and the Panthers’ redshirt junior shot-stopper Arie Ammann just narrowly besting Durand with a .707 save percentage.
With two teams as closely matched as Pitt and NC State are, this is sure to be a fantastic game for the neutrals and a nail biter for fans of either side. The winner will go on the face the winner of Clemson and Notre Dame in the semifinal.
The match will kick off at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10 and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.