Men’s Weekend Preview: Title deciders

Men’s Weekend Preview: Title deciders
by Travis Clark
November 8, 2018

The final weekend of men’s DI college soccer is here, with tournament selection set for Monday.

Keep an eye on these five conference tournaments.

Big Ten battles

Indiana vs. Maryland, 1 p.m.
Michigan vs. Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m.

Attention in the Big Ten turns to Grand Park, as Indiana seeks a double in 2018. The Hoosiers face a tricky test from a Maryland side that has been trending upwards towards the end of the season. Tough defensively, the Terps seem to find enough goals even without a regular contributor emerging. They’ll take on an Indiana side that won’t have Griffin Dorsey or Justin Rennicks, who are on duty with the U.S. U20s. Solving Trey Muse in goal is never going to be easy and shutting down left back Andrew Gutman – who scored twice when these two teams met earlier in the year – is crucial.

Friday’s other semifinal pits Michigan and Wisconsin against each other. After losing a host of talent, freshmen like Noah Melick and Andrew Akindele have stepped up to help drive the offense. The Wolverines enter as slight favorites, bringing the talents like Jack Hallahan and Umar Farouk Osman to the field.

Louisville, North Carolina clash for ACC title

Two ACC powers square off on Sunday (noon EST, ACC Digital Network) after winning 2-1 in Wednesday’s semifinal. The Cardinals went on the road to defeat Wake Forest, beating them with an overtime winner from Elijah Amo. It took a dramatic winner from Jelani Pieters for the Tar Heels to top Duke.

Both teams are hard to break down and can wrest control of the game in midfield. Senior Tate Schmitt’s the key to unlocking it all, while Haji Abukadir’s golazo against Wake Forest could show that he’s an X-Factor in the postseason. North Carolina’s back line is led by senior Alex Comsia, with Mauricio Pineda shielding the back line. Getting enough goals can be a challenge, a role usually filled by either Nils Bruening or Giovanni Montesdeoca in 2018.

Hoyas host Big East final

After a dominant mid-week win at home against Providence, Georgetown needed a hand to host Sunday’s Big East final. Marquette did them that favor, beating Creighton in a 10-9 penalty shootout after playing to a 1-1 draw in Omaha.

The Golden Eagles have a shot at landing the Big East crown and the automatic bid that would come with it, much to the detriment of teams on the bubble. Behind the fire power of Achara and Derek Dodson, Georgetown’s been a solid side for much of the season, finishing in second place in the Big East behind Creighton. Shutting down Luka Prpa in the middle of the park and solving Big East Goalkeeper of the Year Luis Barraza are the keys for the host. Don’t count out Marquette, who have everything to play for and the talent to pull it off – Barraza in particular is impressive, as he made eight saves on Wednesday in the triumph against Creighton.

Can Kentucky make it a clean sweep?

Friday, Nov. 9

Kentucky vs. Marshall, 4:30 p.m.
Charlotte vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m.

The story of the 2018 season, Kentucky can reinforce their tremendous season with a Conference USA tournament title. Charlotte plays hosts, and they’ll take on Old Dominion in the second semifinal on Friday. The 49ers rely on defenders Callum Montgomery and Patrick Hogan to keep things tight at the back, and they’ll be tested plenty by the Monarchs’ attackers Niko Klosterhalfen and Max Wilschrey.

A 10 sides head to Saint Louis

VCU vs. Rhode Island, 2 p.m.
George Mason vs. Dayton, 4:30 p.m.

Four Atlantic 10 programs have traveled to Saint Louis for this weekend’s tournament semifinals and finals. VCU finished the season as the regular season champions, needing penalties to advance to this point. Midfielder Siad Haji’s the main key, and the Rams must find a way past Rhode Island to solidify their hopes of securing an at large bid. Rhode Island’s on fairly safe ground and can create plenty of problems for the top seed.

The other side of the bracket, George Mason and Dayton meet for the first time this season. A strong finish to the season for the Patriots propelled them to this point, as they’ve won four of the last five, including three straight. In those three games, they’ve kept a clean sheet. Limiting Rok Taneski’s ability to control the game and dictate play is part of Mason’s path to a win.

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