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A Look At The Sweet Sixteen Matchups – Men’s NCAA Tournament

The third round of the 2014 Men's NCAA Soccer Tournament is slated to take place on Sunday, November 30.  College Soccer News takes a look at each of the match-ups, what each team needs to do well to prevail, and ventures a prediction regarding the outcome of each of the eight contests.  

#16 seed Virginia (11-6-2) vs. #1 seed Notre Dame (12-4-4)

These two teams have played twice this year already, a tie at Virginia and a 3-0 score line in favor of Notre Dame at South Bend in the ACC tournament.  The good news for Notre Dame is the game is back in South Bend.  Both teams took care of business in the round of 32.  Notre Dame won 2-1 over Ohio State in very difficult conditions and Virginia beat a very good UNCW team to advance, making for a very interesting match-up.  Keys for both teams will be in midfield.   Notre Dame’s Patrick Hodan will need to be contained out wide, and Eric Bird is as solid as any midfielder in the country.  Virginia has pace all over the field, but Notre Dame at Notre Dame is going to be too tall a task for Virginia.  Ohio State was able to disrupt the Notre Dame midfield throughout the whole match and put pressure on the two center backs making the game very difficult for Notre Dame, and forcing keeper Patrick Wall to make a handful of incredible saves for Notre Dame to advance, if Virginia is able to do some of the same expect a very close game.  Virginia’s combination play in the final third is quality, and beating a UNCW team 3-1 says something.  But Notre Dame’s organization all over the pitch might be too much for Virginia.  Our prediction Notre Dame to win this one 3-1.

#14 seed Washington (12-5-2) vs. #3 seed Michigan State (12-4-5) 

Michigan State beat an up and coming Oakland team, which was organized and dangerous on the counter to advance.  Washington slipped by a tough Furman team in penalty kicks, though Washington had a number of chances to win the game in regulation and overtime.  Darwin Jones has been out for Washington which plays into the hands of Michigan State if he is unable to go, but Cristian Roland and Mason Robertson are certainly good enough to lead the offense for Washington.  Michigan State’s midfield of Jay Chapman and Fatai Alashe are as good as any in the country. In the games this season that Michigan State struggled in both players were neutralized, expect that to be Washington’s plan when the get to East Lancing.  This game will be a grind, but our pick is Washington 2-1.

UC Irvine (14-4-2) vs. #11 seed Providence (16-5-3)

Providence is flat out good, and even better at home.  The 3-0 score line verse Dartmouth was the most lopsided in the second round, but UC Irvine is heating up.  Their 1-0 defeat of a heavily favored Stanford team cannot be ignored.  UC Irvine is an organized team in the back and a player like Cameron Iwasa is a handful to contain up top.  Dominik Machado and Fabio Machado will need to do a lot of work for Providence to be successful here, but expect the key player to be Providence’s keeper Keasel Broome, who may be one of the most overlooked keepers in the country.  This will be a good one with Providence coming out on top 2-1.  

#9 seed Syracuse (16-3-1) vs. #8 seed Georgetown (13-4-4)

Syracuse is very new to the round of 16, but a spot in the Sweet Sixteen is becoming a yearly ritual for Georgetown.  Georgetown beat a very good Old Dominion team in the final seconds of overtime to advance to the round of 16, and Syracuse took care of a good Penn State team 2-1.  Georgetown’s Brandon Allen continues to be the threat up top, but don’t sleep on Alex Muyl, his off the ball runs are causing havoc for everyone who plays Georgetown with players like Arun Basulijevic feeding him balls.  Syracuse has got the momentum of a great regular season and a strong run into the NCAA’s on their side. Oyvind Alseth and Chris Nanco gave Penn State fits, expect them to do the same verses Georgetown.  Syracuse prides itself on defense, and having a very solid GK in Alex Bono.  This game will come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes in the final third.  Expect Georgetown to win in pk’s.

Xavier (15-5-2) vs. #12 seed Creighton (15-3-2) 

Xavier plays with a chip on their shoulder.  Beating IU at IU has never been an easy task, but like Xavier has done all year, they went into Bloomington and did exactly what they needed to do to advance.  Creighton advanced after defeating a good Oregon State team 1-0.  Both these teams are extremely organized in the mid and the back.  Timo Pitter for Creighton can unlock defenses for Creighton, but so can Will Walker for Xavier.  Jose Ribas the left back for Creighton might be the factor for Creighton in this game getting forward, but our guess is that freshman Matt Vasquenza enters the game for Xavier and becomes the X factor in the game.  Xavier wins this one 1-0 and marches on to the programs first elite eight.

North Carolina (14-5-1) vs. #7 seed Clemson (12-6-3)

It has been sometime since Clemson has been back to the sweet sixteen, whereas the North Carolina Tar Heels seem to be here every year.  Clemson is organized and physical, but UNC tends to build momentum when the game is flowing.  If Clemson can disrupt the flow of the game expect UNC to struggle. Andy Craven, Omar Holness and Rob Lovejoy will need to be creative for UNC to breakdown the Clemson back four. Paul Clowes and Iman Mafi have favorable matchups for Clemson against the UNC defense.  This should be interesting and could go either way but our guess is Clemson 2-1

#15 seed California (11-6-1) vs. #2 seed UCLA (12-4-4)

California got here by beating a much improved SIUE team 1-0, while UCLA got by San Diego in overtime 2-1.  This game comes down to offense verses defense.   UCLA’s combination of Leo Stoltz and Abu Danladi is fantastic and dangerous for 90 minutes going forward.  UCLA is athletic, technical, and able to beat defenders from almost every position on the field.  California on the other hand is as good defensively as there is in the country, led by Trevor Haberkorn.  The two teams know each other well having played one another in the regular season, but all that goes out the window in the NCAA’s.  This could be UCLA’s year, and California just a bridge for them to cross.  UCLA wins this game 2-0

UMBC (13-5-4) vs. #13 seed Louisville (11-7-3)

Louisville got here by beating a very good Saint Louis team 2-1, while UMBC pulled a major upset over Maryland at Maryland 1-0.  Louisville is organized and very good going forward, Andrew Brody has special abilities in the attack, and Ricardo Velazco is a handful up top.  UMBC is lead by Kay Banjo up top, Oumar Ballo in the back and sophomore goalkeeper Billy Heavner. This game will come down to coaching and which team is able to control the tempo of the match. Louisville has struggled against teams that sit in and force the backs to make the game, disrupting their rhythm.  UMBC under the direction of Pete Caringi, Jr. is very good about countering and dictating the pace of a contest. In the end the advantage of playing at home combined with tactical adjustments by Coach Lolla should give Louisville the edge they need to prevail. Louisville wins 3-2 in overtime.

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