The right bleachers of Klöckner Stadium will be infiltrated by a swarm of Chicago maroon and burnt orange this Friday evening. The left side, soon to be filled with a different shade of orange, will look to drown out the stripes of the former. On the field, Virginia men’s soccer (2-2, ACC) and Virginia Tech (0-3-1, ACC) will engage in yet another Commonwealth Clash. This time, it will be for the right to a 1-0 start in the ACC.
Up until now, the Cavaliers have outright dominated the Hokies when the two sides come together. Virginia has taken 33 of 43 meetings between the teams, losing on just four occasions since the series began in 1975.
Recently, however, it’s been a different story. Virginia Tech has turned things around against its arch rivals, having taken two of the last three matchups. The last time the teams faced off was Sept. 17, 2021, when the Hokies came away with a thrilling 2-1 victory in double overtime that provided them with their second-ever home win over the Cavaliers. It was a game Virginia surely believed they deserved to win, having produced more shots, shots on goal and corner kicks than Virginia Tech.
That signature win for the Hokies is one they’ll look to build on heading into Friday, as they are still searching for their first win of the season. Defeats to Grand Canyon, UCLA and Mercer have only found cushioning from a scoreless draw against Radford.
When it comes to the attack, Virginia Tech will look to sophomore midfielder Danny Flores, who is pacing the Hokies in points, goals, assists and shots on goal through four games. Flores will enter Friday off the back of an impressive performance that saw him net a goal and an assist Monday against Mercer.
In defense, junior defender Jack Dearie and senior defender Kyle McDowell have played every minute for Virginia Tech this season, headlining a defensive unit that has allowed more than one goal on just one occasion. Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Martino plays between the sticks for the Hokies, sporting eight saves to five goals conceded to begin the campaign.
For the Cavaliers, it can’t get much worse than their last time out. Virginia fell 6-1 to No. 9 Maryland Monday night, marking the first time since 2016 that the Cavaliers conceded six goals in a single match. With an easier opponent and home field advantage to look forward to, Virginia will hope it can avoid a similar result.
The key to that will be a balanced effort, as the Cavaliers have proven all season. Virginia’s eight goals this campaign have come from six different players, with only junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov and junior forward Leo Afonso finding the net twice. Afonso headlines the attacking unit, pacing the team with 17 shots and eight shots on goal.
In the midfield, the Cavaliers will rely on Mangarov and freshman midfielder Albin Gashi. The pair have already combined for three goals and two assists, proving to be a dangerous pivot in the final third.
Until their last outing, the defense had been the strong point for Virginia. Led by senior defender Andreas Ueland and graduate student defender Moritz Kappelsberger, the unit conceded just one goal over their first three games, keeping two clean sheets in the process. After an anomalous performance against the Terrapins, a big response is needed from a group that has shown the capability to be a backbone for the Cavaliers.
All of this comes together to create a salivating 44th edition of the Commonwealth Clash. Each team enters following a loss, and each team badly needs a victory to kickstart a season that has been fairly rocky. In the end, there will only be one winner, and fans can be sure that both squads will put everything on the line to be on the right side of the result.
The game is set to kickoff at 8 p.m. and will be streamed on ACC Network.