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NCAA Men’s College Cup Final Preview

#3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish versus #5 Maryland Terrapins (3pm ESPNU/WATCH ESPN)

Venue: PPL Park (Philadelphia, PA.)

Notre Dame

Founded: 1977

Record This Season: 15-1-6

Path to Philly (By order of round:) Defeated Wisconsin 4-0, #14 Wake Forest 4-2, #11 Michigan State 2-1, and New Mexico 2-0.

Number of Final Four Appearances:This is their first appearance in the College Cup final.  

Coach:Bobby Clark (12th Season)

Key Players:Goalkeeper Patrick Wall (Senior,) Midfielder Patrick Hodan (Sophomore,) and Forward Harrison Shipp (Senior.)

Notable Alumni: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids,) Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes,) and Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City.)

 

Maryland

Founded:1946

Record this Season: 16-3-5

Path to Philly: The Terrapins defeated Providence 3-1, #12 UC Irvine 1-0, #4 California 2-1, and Virginia 2-1.

Number of College Cup Appearances: This is their 5th appearance in the College Cup Final. Maryland is a three-time NCAA Tournament, having won the trophy in 1968, 2005, and 2008. They also finished as runners-up in 1960 and 1962.

Coach: Sasho Cirovski (20th season)

Key Players: Forward Patrick Mullins (Senior,) Midfielder Dan Metzger (Senior,) Tsubasa Endoh (Junior,) and Defender Mikey Ambrose (Sophomore.)

Notable Alumni: Maurice Edu (Stoke City,) Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy,) Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City,) Rodney Wallace (Portland,) Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes,) and Robbie Rogers (L.A. Galaxy)

Outlook:

 

A classic match of teams that mirror each other, both the Fighting Irish and the Terrapins have found success in the NCAA Tournament by playing aggressive, attacking football. Notre Dame features one of the strongest group up of players up front, with Senior Harrison Shipp, the 2013 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and nominee for the Hermann Trophy award. Shipp has scored 12 goals on the season for the Fighting Irish, which ranks him 13th in the nation. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan has also chipped in with 9 goals, five of which have been game-winners. The Irish are also the first team since Wake Forest back in 2008 to score 4 goals in two consecutive games, and have outscored their opponents 21-6 in the first half this season.

 

While the Irish may be lighting teams up, the Terrapins are no slouches. Senior Patrick Mullins leads all of Division I Men’s Soccer in goals with 16, including 1 that helped lead the Terps over their hated rivals the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday night. What makes Mullins such a special player is that he can make his own shot and can trap the ball off of his chest and control the ball with a skill that you only see in veteran players. Maryland also has an excellent midfield led by Dan Metzger and Tsubasa Endoh. The Terrapins midfield like the push the ball to their outside midfielders to stretch the field so that Mullins has adequate space to take a shot. As a team, Maryland scores on average 2.08 goals per game, which is the seventh highest in all of Division I Men’s Soccer.

What separates these two teams is the play of the Notre Dame defense. Senior Goalkeeper Patrick Wall has had a splendid season, carrying a Goals Against Average .73 in a very difficult ACC. Part of their success over the past two years has been the backline of Senior Grant Van De Casteele, Senior Andrew O’Malley, Junior Max Lachowecki, and Luke Mishu. Anytime a defense can have four players play such difficult positions for such an extended period of time is remarkable. For college, when players are still growing and learning the game, it is an asset. The understanding that these four have for one on other on the field was evident on Friday night when they were able to halt the New Mexico Lobos on multiple breakaway opportunities.

 

The one area of the field that is a little suspect is the Maryland defense. Although they showed tremendous poise during this tournament, going to California and securing a road victory, they have also shown that they are prone to mental lapses. During the Providence game, where they were up 1-0 in the 60th minute, the team put their foot off of the gas and were burned by Bill Towler cross volley to tie the match. It was the same thing on Friday night, when the Terps were dominating the Cavaliers for most of the match. But they allowed the Cavaliers when Dan Metzger made a terrible challenge on Forward Marcus Salandy- Dufour in the box and gave Virginia a goal off of a penalty. Goalkeeper Patrick Steffen, a Philadelphia Union academy player, made several incredible saves and will be called upon again today to bail the Terrapins out of a few sticky situations.

 

It would appear that Notre Dame has the advantage against Maryland, but the one thing to keep in mind is that Maryland will be going for their third National Title in eleven years. Notre Dame has made the Final Four, but this is their first-ever Championship match. With two teams that are fairly even, the advantage has to go to the team who has the experience.

 

 

 

Projected Score: Maryland 2, Notre Dame 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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