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College cup touting 1st-timers against veterans

Published: December 8, 2010
Oh boy! Christmas is coming early!

We are less than two days away from the 2010 NCAA Men’s College Cup, and if you can’t wait until Friday to for all the excitement, here’s a breakdown of both semifinals to keep you busy.

Stay tuned in the upcoming days for further coverage from Santa Barbara, California.

No. 1 Louisville (19-0-3) vs. No. 4 North Carolina (16-3-4)
Fri. Dec 10 at 8:30 PM EST – ESPNU

Louisville saw its life flash before its eyes this past weekend as they fell behind to UCLA twice by two goals. They hadn’t been pushed this much the entire year, and with a significantly easy bracket, the Bruin offense was the toughest thing they faced in tournament play.

louisville men's college soccer player Austin BerryAustin Berry
Nevertheless, the Cardinals are undefeated for a reason and pulled a marvelous comeback win, 5-4, with Aaron Horton scoring with a minute left to play. The five goals were the most Louisville had scored since its victory over Appalachian State.

If there needed to be a wake-up for the Cardinals, there was no better time than against UCLA. Louisville will depend once again on the performance of Colin Rolfe and the rest of the Cardinal offense to replicate something similar to the 5-goal outing against the Bruins.

On the backline, it will have to be the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Austin Berry, to dictate the defense that has allowed Louisville to keep an undefeated record all year. The other two big players have to be Nick DeLeon and Big East Rookie of the Year Dylan Mares, who are tied for second in the team for most points (19).

For most, North Carolina’s path to the College Cup was suspenseful. But for the Tar Heels, it was more of a “been there, done that” situation. For the third consecutive time North Carolina needed a penalty kick shootout to beat their opponent and progress one more step in claiming the NCAA title.

But for the Tar Heels to be effective, they must fix their offense. Only scoring two goals in the NCAA tournament so far isn’t going to work against a high-powered Louisville. Enzo Martinez, Kirk Urso, and MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist Michael Farfan will have to be on top of their game come Friday.

north carolina mens college soccer player scott goodwinScott Goodwin
On the other hand, the defense has been outstanding. Led by sophomore goalkeeper Scott Goodwin, who’s had a 0.63 goal-against average; the Tar Heel defense has kept tournament opponents at bay.
The contrast between these two teams will make it an interesting affair. And if North Carolina wants to be successful, it will have to avoid letting the game be played in its own half of the field.

North Carolina, who became the first program in NCAA history to go to a third straight College Cup, will try to forget all its previous failures – a 2008 final and a 2009 semifinal loss – and try to claim its second title since 2001. For California-natives Jalil Anibaba, Jordan Gafa, and Farfan, there will be extra incentive to win a title close to home and family.

Louisville might be a giant in soccer at the moment, but is new to the College Cup, making its first appearance in program history. The Cardinals will come into Santa Barbara with a Big East unbeaten record of 22 straight games, surpassing St. John’s record of 21 back in 1993. But all that doesn’t matter under the lights of Harder Stadium unless you win.

No. 3 Akron
(20-1-2) vs. No. 10 Michigan (17-4-3)
Fri. Dec 10 at 11:00 PM EST – ESPN2/ESPNU/

The turn of the Millennium was significant for Michigan as it prepared for its inaugural men’s soccer season. Ten years later, the Wolverines are heading to their first College Cup appearance after upsetting Maryland in a PK shootout.

michigan men's college soccer player justin meramJustin Meram
Michigan has shown the heart of a lion displaying a great performance coming back from a deficit against Maryland.

The forwards leading the Wolverines to greatness will be senior Justin Meram and freshman sensation Soony Saad.

Meram has notched 16 goals and 8 assists for Michigan. Meanwhile Saad, the Big Ten and Freshman of the Year, has found the back of the net 19 times, and is still in the running for the nation’s top goal scorer.

If Michigan wants to follow up its Elite 8 performance with another upset, the defense has to be impenetrable. Leaking 31 goals throughout the season doesn’t bode well against an Akron team that has scored almost three goals a game, and of course, the Zips rolled 7-1 over the Wolverines when they played in Akron during the regular season.

Akron will be returning to a second straight College Cup, third in program history, after they also survived a PK shootout against California. The Zips will be coming into this year’s College Cup with some vengeance.

akron mens college soccer player darlington nagbeDarlington Nagbe
Never having won a national championship in any sport, Akron has felt the sting of coming so close throughout this season, falling short in the 2009 finals against Virginia on penalty kicks. However the Zips, commanded by reigning NSCAA National Coach of the Year, Caleb Porter, have been a force to reckon with and have a great chance to reach the final yet again.

For Akron to cool down the Wolverines, it will need to lean on Darren Mattocks, Michael Nanchoff and MAC Hermann Semifinalist as well as MAC Player of the Year Darlington Nagbe. The dynamic trio have accounted for 35 of Akron’s goals and 26 of its assists.

Akron’s second MAC Herman Semifinalist, Kofie Sarkodie, will have to lead his defense if the Zips don’t to enter a war of goals like it did against Cal, and give Michigan any reason to come out victorious.

On paper, Akron is the heavy favorite, but then again so was Maryland. The Wolverines are the hottest team in the nation. This semifinal has the potential to be explosive, with plenty of open space for beautiful soccer and looks at goal.

But bottom line, similar to the first semifinal, it will be about respect for one team, and retribution for the other.
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