In a season that has seen the banged-up University of Virginia soccer team win only half its games, Coach Bruce Arena is too smart to make definitive statements.
Will injured all-American Jeff Agoos play against North Carolina today at 2 in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Scott Stadium?
"Probably, but I wouldn't say definitely," Arena said. "We're getting some guys back, but we're certainly not at full strength."
The 10th-ranked Cavaliers (11-5-6) have been stung by injuries all season. Agoos, who missed last week's 1-0 first-round victory over Richmond with a leg injury, is just the latest casualty.
Freshman goalkeeper Tom Henske separated his shoulder in the first week and was redshirted. Senior forward John Maessner, a dynamic scoring threat, broke a bone in his foot in the fifth game against Indiana and could be ready for next week's South Region final against North Carolina State or South Carolina.
That is, of course, if the defending NCAA co-champions can beat the Tar Heels (13-6) for the third time this season and for the sixth straight time over three seasons. Virginia won by 2-0 on Sept. 30 in Chapel Hill and by 3-0 in the first round of the ACC tournament Nov. 1 at Duke.
"They have no weaknesses," Tar Heels Coach Elmar Bolowich said. "There are no areas to exploit. It's just a matter of our team possessing the necessary enthusiasm and smarts, hanging in until the end of the game and, hopefully, we'll get the one goal we need to win the game."
One goal may be difficult if Agoos, a three-time all-American and player-of-the-year candidate, returns. Still, midfielders Kris Kelderman and Mike Huwiler and sweeper Curt Onalfo are nursing injuries, which may limit Arena's options. He made no substitutions last week and may need another gritty effort to advance.
Injuries to teammates also enhance the roles of sophomore Erik Imler (Bowie) and freshman Brian Bates (Woodbridge), former All-Mets who have played in every game this season.
"You may not believe this, but we haven't had the same team on the field during any period, for games or practices, because of all the injuries," Arena said.
Sophomore Watson Jennison (1.15 goals-against average) will start in goal for the Tar Heels and freshman Jeff Causey (0.63) will protect Virginia's net.