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Men’s College Soccer. Clemson And Washington Advance To The National Championship On Sunday.

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Clemson 1 – Notre Dame 1 – Clemson advances 5-3 in a penalty kick shootout

Grit, Guts and Determination – Goals are almost always hard to come by in contests at this stage of the season between two talented teams who are familiar with each other and their styles of play. Both teams have productive attacks but chances were pretty good that neither would dominate which was the case in this one.

It goes without saying that it takes a total team effort on both sides of the ball to get to the College Cup and a total team effort to advance once there. But the difference in this one came down to the big play ability and determination of Clemson midfielder senior Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador who drove a beautiful shot into the frame, several huge and gritty stops from Clemson senior goalkeeper George Marks including a crucial stop in the penalty kick shootout, and decisive and gutsy strikes from the spot under pressure in the pk shootout from senior John Martin who had not played a minute during regulation, Fernandez-Salvadore, junior back Oskar Agren, sophomore back Hamady Diop, and senior back Justin Malou.  

Both of these teams have had outstanding but nonetheless up and down seasons during which they have had to overcome adversity. Clemson had to redefine themselves on the offensive side of the ball after several key injuries while Notre Dame had to find the balance and confidence they needed after several early season losses in which they had a lead and allowed the game to get away from them.

Notre Dame came out on the front foot and during the first five minutes of the game it looked like they might break through early and dominate the contest. Clemson appeared tentative which resulted in several not so accurate passes that played right into the hands of a vertical oriented Notre Dame team that is excellent at taking advantage of turnovers and counter attacking at speed. Clemson got back on track and it was a back-and-forth match until Fernadez-Salvador made a nice move outside the 18-yard box to create the angle he needed to drive a shot into the upper right corner of the net in the 11th minute. To their credit Notre Dame maintained their composure and in the 21st minute they were awarded a penalty kick when freshman forward Matthew Roou was fouled in the box. Senior forward Jack Lynn calmly converted the pk to tie the contest at 1-1.

Clemson got the best of the possession during the evening but Notre Dame had a 14 to 7 advantage in shots led by Lynn with five. The Irish also had a 4 to 3 advantage in corner kicks. It was a physical contest with a total of 35 fouls with each team receiving a single yellow card.

Both sides attacked with Notre Dame taking a more direct approach seeking to create turnovers they could exploit while Clemson sought to switch the field of play and find a seam that they could exploit but neither was able to consistently put together the combinations of passes that would enable them to settle in and break the code on their opponent’s defense and dominate the contest.

Clemson’s back line of Agren, Malou, Diop and Charlie Asensio put in a full 110-minute shift. Notre Dame’s backline of Philip Quinton, Paddy Burns, Josh Ramsey and Ben Giacobello also put in a full 110-minute shift. Sophomore goalkeeper Bryan Dowd had a two save contest for the Irish while Marks had 3 saves in goal including a vital stop during the pk shootout for the Tigers.

Number 4 seeded Notre Dame concludes a banner and momentum building season under head coach Chad Riley with a 14-5-5 record during which they won the ACC championship for the first time in program history and advanced to the College Cup with wins over Villanova 3-0, Wake Forest 2-0 and Pitt in a contest decided by a penalty shootout after it was tied 1-1 at the end of 110 minutes of play.

Number 8 seeded Clemson under Mike Noonan advanced to the College Cup with a 1-0 win over Denver, a 2-1 win over Kentucky and a 1-1 tie with number one seed Oregon State in which they prevailed 4-3 in a pk shootout.

The difference in the contest and the margin for error for both teams was razor thin but at the end of the day a senior led Clemson team (15-5-5) once again came up with the clutch plays that they needed to survive and advance to the national championship game on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Washington 2 – Georgetown 1

Speed, Explosiveness and Intensity – Many considered Washington and Georgetown to be the two best teams in the county. The start of this one was delayed an hour after the first contest of the evening was knotted at the end of 110 minutes of play and went into penalty kicks.

Both number two seed Washington and number three seed Georgetown have done a good job this year of making the adjustments they needed to make at halftime to give them the edge they needed to prevail. The first half was a bit of a chess match. It was a bit surprising that neither team was able to muster much in terms of offensive productivity in the first half but not unexpected that the teams went into intermission scoreless.

Oh my. Something had to give in this one and as expected things changed in the second stanza with Washington picking up the tempo, applying additional pressure, and doing a better job of putting together the combinations of passes they needed to get on the board.

Lucas Meek electrified the Washington faithful in the 54th minute of play when he and teammate Dylan Teves engaged in a little one-two combination that gave Meeks the very narrow opening, he needed to thread a shot into the far right-side of the net from outside the left side of the 18-yard box.  Junior defender Charlie Ostrem then added what proved to be the game-winner when he received a pass from Gio Miglietti and made a sharp transition from his left to his right just outside the center of the top of the box to create the space he needed to send a shot into the right side of the goal to give the Huskies a two-goal advantage.

Georgetown continued to press and began to play with more of a sense of urgency in their final third. The Hoyas pulled one back to remain in contention when senior Zach Riviere drove a header into the back of the net in the 80th minute of play that was set up by a ball served in by freshman defender Kieran Sargeant. The Hoyas worked hard to find the equalizer and might have been able to had they had more time as Washington looked a bit frazzled on the defense side of the ball at the end but the Huskies dug deep and held on to secure a 2-1 win.  

This was a back-and-forth contest with ebbs and flows. The momentum shifted to Washington in the second stanza when Georgetown didn’t match Washington’s intensity in the first 15 minutes of the second half during which the Huskies were here, they were there, they were everywhere. Opportunities existed for both teams at times but the gaps that existed closed quickly due to solid, compact, and organized play on the defensive side of the ball by both teams. Both teams concluded the evening with only two shots on goal.

Washington was able to get the best of the run of play when they picked up the tempo with a more one and two touch approach that enhanced their quickness and opened the field of play. Georgetown sought to gain the edge at times by pushing their outside backs up to secure a numbers advantage that they could exploit but were unable to create penetrating opportunities in the attacking third for the likes of Dante Polvara, Sean Sawadzki and Stefan Stojanovic.  

Georgetown concludes another very successful season under Brian Wiese with an 18-3-1 overall record. The Hoyas won the Big East Conference championship for the fourth time in the last five seasons and advanced to the College Cup with wins over Georgia State 2-0, Providence 4-1 and a tie 1-1 tie with West Virginia in which they prevailed in a penalty kick shootout. Credit Georgetown with having a solid and enthused contingent of fans on hand who made the trip to Cary, North Carolina to support the Hoyas.

It was a huge history making win for a Washington team under Jamie Clark that is now 18-1-2 and advances to play for the national championship on Sunday for the first time in program history. The Huskies out of the Pac-12 advanced to the College Cup with wins over Portland 3-1, Indiana 3-2 and Saint Louis 2-0.

Clemson (15-5-5) vs. Washington (18-1-2) – Sunday 2 pm EST –

National Championship. The contest will be shown live on ESPNU

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