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Top 5 Matches: Down the stretch

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: October 31, 2019

The final stretch of the men’s Division I season is here, with conference tournaments starting next week.

These five games loom large (all kickoff times listed EST).

Friday, November 1

North Carolina (7-6-3, 3-4) at No. 2 Virginia (13-1-1, 5-1-1), 7 p.m. (ACC Digital Network)

The Tar Heels are in an unexpected position entering this trip to Charlottesville. Without a win here or a run in the ACC tournament, North Carolina may not have a chance to be in the mix for an at-large bid. A misfiring attack is part of the cause, and getting goals against Virginia’s going to be a tough ask, particularly at Klockner. Daryl Dike’s been an absolute machine as a sophomore, involved in 12 of UVA’s 25 goals. The battle for midfield control between Joe Bell and Mauricio Pineda could end up dictating this matchup as the Tar Heels look for the result.

Memphis (10-4, 4-1) at No. 4 UCF (11-1-2, 4-0-1), 7 p.m. (Watch)

Already with a massive road win in AAC play, Memphis can stake a claim for the American Athletic regular season crown if they can pull off another in Orlando. The wild 4-3 win against SMU should give the Tigers confidence, not to mention the 10 goals Sam Ashton has provided. A win here would continue to reinforce Memphis’ at-large resume, not to mention the chances of staying in the mix for a regular season title. UCF can certainly fly forward and find the back of the net, behind Cal Jennings and his 12 goals. The Knights’ defense can be leaky at times, as they’ve secured just four shutouts in 14 games this year. They have four overtime wins in six times as well. Whoever wins, a high-scoring match looks on the cards.

No. 5 Clemson (13-1-1, 5-1-1) at No. 19 NC State (8-4-3, 3-3-1), 7 p.m. (ACC Digital Network)

Speaking of goals, the Tigers have fashioned the nation’s best attack, scoring 3.8 goals per game. They’ll take that on the road for the ACC finale against the Wolfpack, which generally boast a stingy defense. NC State has been hit-or-miss going forward, getting shutout three times in the past four games. Robbie Robinson and Kimarni Smith have combined for an astounding 27 goals, and they’ll need to be slowed down in order for the Wolfpack to come away with the victory in this one. A win in this one would all but lock up an already solid at-large bid for the host side. Clemson can continue to reinforce their status as a national title contender, with an eye on continuing to improve defensively.

Sunday, November 3

Michigan (8-4-4, 3-1-3) at No. 6 Maryland (9-5-2, 3-2-2), 3 p.m. (ESPNU)

While the Big Ten regular season crown is out of reach for both of these teams, national television beckons for the final between the Terps and Wolverines. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to play for, as Michigan could really use one more win against higher RPI opponent to shore up its at-large status. That, and Big Ten tournament seeding is at stake, when the two sides line up against each other in College Park. Injuries have both been the story of the season for the two teams, keeping them from full strength for long stretches of the campaign. The two players for the Terps to key in are Nebojsa Popovic and Marc Ybarra; the former reached the 10 goal mark this week against the Spartans, and the latter has eight helpers. Defense has been the key for Maryland when things are clicking, with goals coming from Justin Gielen (3) and Eric Matzelevich (4), the teams top two scorers.

Seattle (10-3-3, 7-0-1) at UTRGV (8-4-1, 4-3-1), 4 p.m. (WAC Digital Network)

Looking for a high-scoring clash to finish out the weekend? Seattle’s trip to the Rio Grande Valley is a good bet. Declan McGlynn’s enjoyed a sensational year, scoring eight goals and setting up seven more. Noe Meza’s chipped in eight, and this trip is another chance for the team to shore up its standing at the top of the WAC. With Kyle Edwards and William Akio, UTRGV has the firepower to match what Seattle offers going forward. Whichever defense can step up and shackle the other could end up determining the winner in this match.

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