The Intangibles That Will Likely Impact The Outcome Of The 2019 College Cup

There are no Cindarellas in the College Cup (Final Four) this year. Virginia, Georgetown and Wake Forest were all awarded a top four seed. Stanford is a number seven seed and the national champion three out of the past four years. All were highly ranked throughout the season. The coach of each of the participants does an excellent job of roster management by bringing on board players with the talent and mentality that fits their style of play. All have a culture of excellence that the older players instill in the newcomers. All are talented but it takes more than talent to win a national championship. The intangibles listed below could come into play.  

Senior Leadership – It can make a difference when playing on the biggest stage in college soccer

Virginia – Defender and captain Robin Afamefuna, a four-year starter, is the lone senior in the starting lineup.

Wake Forest – Hermann Trophy semifinalist and All-ACC First Team selection midfielder Bruno Lapa (9g, 3a), two-year starter defender Alistair Johnson (3g, 5a), three year starter midfielder Joey Dezart (1g, 1a), defender Eddie Folds (0g, 1a) and forward Tater Rennhack (0g, 3a) are among the seniors who set the pace for the Demon Deacons.

Georgetown – Two-time Big East Defender of the Year Dylan Nealis (4g, 5a), graduate student forward Ethan Lochner (0g, 1a), forward Achara (6g, 4a), forward Riley Strassner and midfielder JB Fischer (1g, 1a) are among the seniors who are key contributors.

Stanford – Seniors defender Tanner Beason (5g, 1a) and midfielders Jared Gilbey (0g, 6a) and Derek Waldeck (4g, 8a) are four-year starters and pace setters for the Cardinal.  

Freshmen in Key Roles – They now have a year of starting experience under their belts and bring energy to the pitch but this is their first rodeo.

Virginia – Freshmen forward Axel Gunnarsson (2g, 4a) and center back Andreas Ueland (3g, 0a) have performed well in a starting role. 

Wake Forest – Freshmen forward Calvin Harris (6g, 3a) has added creativity and punch to the attack while back Nico Benalcazar (2g, 0a) has been a solid contributor and starter on the defensive side of the ball.

Georgetown – Freshmen defender Daniel Wu has been a starter and solid performer all year. Freshmen Dante Polvara (4g, 2a) has added an additional dimension to the midfield and goalkeeper Tomas Romero has been the starter in goal in eleven games with an impressive 0.44 goals against average.

Stanford - Freshmen forwards Ousseni Bouda (5g, 5a) and Gabe Segal (6g, 0a) have added balance to the offense. Freshman defender Keegan Hughes (3g, 3a) has been a solid starter. Freshmen midfielder Cam Cilley (0g, 1a) and defender Keegan Tingey (0g, 1a) have been key contributors.  

Momentum - When the margin for error is small it is always a plus to have the wind at your back.  

Virginia - The Cavaliers look to be playing their best soccer of the year. They have not lost since being upset at home by Pitt back on October 18. Virginia won the ACC Tournament for the first time since the 2009 season with impressive wins over Syracuse, Wake Forest and Clemson. They advanced to the College Cup with a gut check 3-2 win in overtime over SMU in the Elite Eight.

Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons have their legs back under them after struggling a little down the homestretch. This is a team that has had to deal with several key injuries but has adjusted well and is fully back on track and playing "Wake Forest" soccer.  They will be eager for the opportunity to turn the table on a Virginia team that topped them 1-0 in the semifinals in the ACC Tournament.

Georgetown (18-1-3) - The Hoyas look to be in a groove with larger than expected wins over Pitt 5-0 and Louisville 5-1 followed by a 2-1 come from behind win over Washington in the Elite Eight. They are a confident, focused, and deep team.    

Stanford - (14-2-5) This is Stanford's fourth trip to the College Cup in the past five years so they are no stranger to biggest stage in all of college soccer. The Cardinal got a wake up call when they didn't put in a full ninety minutes of play in their final regular season contest and were upset at home 1-0 by California. Stanford has advanced in two out of their three contests in the NCAA Tournament by prevailing in a penalty kick shootout. Advancing past Clemson on the road in a penalty kick shootout in the Elite Eight was a huge step. This group likely knows better than any of the other teams in the Final Four exactly what they need to do to prevail. That in itself is a momentum and confidence builder in a survive and advance environment. 

Overall Experience - Composure is a plus. Without it things can come apart pretty fast. Experience can be overrated with a lot of younger players entering college now with a ton of competitive play under their belts. Regardless, it can be can be a difference maker.  

All of the four teams in the College Cup have the experience of playing difficult schedules and all have veteran coaches who have taken a team to the College Cup.  

Virginia - This is a relatively young Virginia team with six upperclassmen in the starting lineup. Senior back Robin Afamefuna is a four year starter while junior forward Nathaniel Croft and junior back Joe Bell are three year starters. Junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler, junior back Henry Kessler and junior midfielder Irakoze Donasiyano have two years of starting experinece under their belts.   

Wake Forest - The Deacons entered the year with several gaps to fill on the defensive side of the ball due to graduation. The Deacons annually do a good job of replacing talented players with talented but less experienced players who gain experience as the season progresses. Wake Forest had six underclassmen in the starting lineup at times this year partially by design and partially due to injuries that have required that others step forward. Defenders senior Alistair Johnston and junior Michael DeSields add experience to the backline while seniors Bruno Lapa and Joey Dezart and junior Machop Chol are among verteran midfielders.  

Georgetown - Seven upperclassmen are regularly in the staring lineup. Senior Dylan Nealis and juniors Rio Hope Gund and Sean O'Hearn provide a solid and experienced presence in the back. Ethan Lochner, Achara and Derek Dodson provide experience up top with juniors Jacob Montes and Paul Rothrock adding stability in the midfield. Brian Wiese has done a good job of blending several talented newcomers in with the returning players.  

Stanford - Five upperclassmen are in the starting lineup. Defender Tanner Beason is a four year starter. Senior midfielders Derek Waldeck, Logan Panchot and Jared Gilbey are very experienced four-year starters. Senior forward Derek Waldeck brings three years of starting experience to the table. Four freshmen were in the starting lineup in Standford's Elite Eight contest against Clemson. 

Combinations - They impact possession, rhythm and flow, and the creation of scoring opportunitites. 

Virginia - Joe Bell, the ACC Midfielder of the Year, and sophomore forward Daryl Dike (7g, 8a) are among the Cavaliers who do an excellent job of creating scoring opportuities. Irakoze Donasiyano (4g, 5a) is a consistent linkman. 

Wake Forest - Midfielders Machop Chol, Isaiah Parente and Bruno Lapa are among those who do a great job of putting together passes that create space and scoring opportuities. Back Alistair Johnston has the ability to push forward from the back to create a numbers advantage. 

Georgetown - Jacob Montes, the Big East Midfielder of the Year, and forward Derek Dodson are among those who combine to make good things happen. Senior Dylan Nealis, the Big East Defender of the Year, adds additional punch to the attack out of the back. Midfielder Paul Rothrock (3g, 7a) is a good set up man.  

Stanford - Midfielders Derek Waldeck (4g, 8a), Logan Panchot (0g, 8a),and Jared Gilbey (0g, 6a) work well together to maintain possession and create scoring opporuntities for forwards Charlie Wehan (3g, 2a), Ousseni Bouda (5g, 5a), Zach Ryan (6g, 2a) and Gabe Segal (6g, 0a). Defender Tanner Beason (5g, 1a) adds to the attack from the back and out of set pieces.   

Hunger - A team that is both talented and hungry is the most dangerous team to face.   

Virginia - Last year the tenth seeded Cavaliers were topped 1-0 in the third round by Notre Dame. In 2017 the eleven seeded Cavaliers were upset by Fordham 1-0 in the second round. The 2019 team has their sights set on nothing less than a national championship.   

Wake Forest - Last year the number one seeded Demon Deacons were one and done in the NCAA Tournament when they were upset at home 1-0 by Akron. The 2019 team has played through adversity which has fueled this team. Getting to the College Cup was a goal but not their end goal. 

Georgetown - The Hoyas believe they can win it all this year and will be disappointed with anything less than a national title. Georgetown was a College Cup caliber team last year and were frustrated when they were upset at home in the third round by MIchigan State 1-0. This is a team that is going to leave it all on the field this year.   

Stanford - Stanford fell one game short of a fourth straight trip to the College Cup last year when they were upset at home by Akron 3-2 in the Elite Eight. The Cardinal have had a couple close calls along the way but have played their way back into the College Cup for the fourth time in the past five seasons. You can bet the farm that Stanford is focused on nothing less than another national championship.  

The play between the pipes. No position has a greater impact on the outcome of the College Cup than the goalkeeper. 

Virginia - Redshirt junior Colin Shutler has been the starter for two seasons. He is 6'1" and leads the nation with a 0.40 goals against average. He has recorded fifteen shutouts and anchored a defense that has allowed a total of only nine goals. Shutler is an All-South Region First Team selection and a First-Team ACC honoree. 

Wake Forest - Redshirt sophomore Andrew Pannenberg. This is his first season in a starting role. He has a 0.66 goals against average and has recorded nine shutouts. He is 6' 3" and anchors a Demon Deacon defense that has allowed a total of fifteen goals. 

Georgetown - Sophomore Giannis Nikopolidis and freshman Tomas Romero split time in goal.

Nikopolidis is 6' 2" and was the starter in 2018. He has started eleven contests in 2019 and has a 0.53 goals against average with four shutouts. He was named the 2019 Big East Co-Goalkeeper of the Year and an All-Big East First Team selection. A total of six goals have been scored when he was between the pipes.

Romero is 6'1" and has started eleven contests this year with a 0.44 goals against average and seven shutouts. A total of five goals have been scored while he was in goal. 

Stanford - Redshirt sophomore Andrew Thomas. He is 6'2" and has been the starter in goal for two seasons. He has a 0.66 goals against average this year and has posted eight shutouts. Thomas is an All-Far West Region First Team selection and an All-a Pac-12 First Team honoree. He anchors a defense that has allowed a total of fourteen goals. 

The Grit Factor  

Virginia - The Cavaliers are talented and tough. Look no further than their come from behind win over Clemson in the ACC Tournament for proof of the mettle of this team.

Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons could have folded when they had to deal with lineup changes due to injury. Instead it has been "next man up" for this team on several occassions. There is no quit in this bunch.

Georgetown - This is a group that has been taking care of business on both sides of the ball all year. The mettle of this team was demonstrated in their come from behind win over Providence in regular season play and their come from behind win over Washington in the Elite Eight. This team has demonstrated the ability to play through difficulty and find a way to prevail.

Stanford - The Cardinal are a nasty matchup for anyone. The return of Tanner Beason from injury added to the tenacity of this team but there are multiple reasons why Stanford is a tough team to beat. 

2019 College Cup - The Final Four - The Tale of the Tape - A Comparison of the Participants

Four teams remain standing. Virginia, Wake Forest, Georgetown, and Stanford have played their way into the 2019 College Cup in Cary, North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East Conference and the Pac-12 Conference are represented. The 2019 season began with 205 teams in the hunt for a spot in the four team College Cup and a chance to play for the 2019 National Championship. 

The Final Four
Overall Record 20-1-1 16-4-2 18-1-3 14-2-5
League ACC ACC Big East Pac-12

League Record

6-1-1 6-2-0 6-0-2 6-2-2
Regular Season Finish in League Play  First Coastal Division Second Atlantic Division  First Second
Record Away From Home 3-0-1 4-3-0 6-1-1 6-0-3


Years At The Helm

George Gelnovatch


Bobby Muuss


Brian Wiese


Jeremy Gunn


NCAA Seed 1 4 3 7
CSN Rank  Regular Season  End Poll First Twelve Second Nine
RPI 1 6 2 13
Average Shots Per Game 13.8 12.9 17.8 14.1
Shots On Goal %  .411 .454 .457 .397
Total Goals  41 44 53 36
Average Goals Per Game 1.86 2.1 2.41 1.71
Goals Allowed 9 15 11 14
Average Goals Allowed Per Game .41 .71 0.50 0.67

Most Goals Scored in Game

3 5 5 5

Most Goals Allowed In Game

2 2 2 3
Corner Kicks Taken  139 120 143 116
Corner Kicks Allowed 76 66 73 80
Total  Shutouts  15 9 12 11
Unbeaten Streak 9 2 15 3
Last Loss









Strength Defense Pressure Depth Defense
How They Beat You Consistency Possession Work Rate Resilience

Balance Stability 

Set Pieces Execution 

Where They Have The Edge Backline Midfield Forward  Goal

Top Goal Scorer

Daryl Dike

(7g, 8a) 

Bruno Lapa 


Jacob Montes (11g, 5a)

   Zach      Ryan  (6g,2a)

Number Players With 4 or More Goals

5 5 6 5
Key Distributor

Irakoze Donasiyano

(4g, 5a)

Isaiah Parente

(1g, 7a)

Paul Rothrock

(3g, 7a)

Logan Panchot

(0g, 8a)

Key Defender   Henry Kessler Alistair Johnston Dylan Nealis Tanner Beason
Keeper Colin Shutler (0.40 gaa) Andrew Pannenberg (0.69)

Giannis Nikopolidis (0.53 gaa)

Thomas Romero (0.44 gaa)

Andrew Thomas (0.66 gaa)
Don't Under-estimate Joe Bell Midfielder (6g, 4a) Machop Chol  Midfielder (4g, 8a) Achara Forward (6g, 4a)  Derek Waldeck Midfielder (4g, 8a)
Freshman To Watch Axel Gunnarsson (2g, 4a) Forward Calvin    Harris  (6g,3a) Midfielder Dante Polvara  (4g, 2a) Midfielder Ousseni Bouda  (5g,5a) Forward

Wild Card


Nathaniel Crofts Forward (6g, 3a)

Kyle Holcomb Forward (9g, 0a) Derek Dodson Forward (10g, 8a) Jared Gilbey   Midfielder (0g, 6a) 
A Key Element

Andreas Ueland Defender

Daniel Steedman Forward

Michael DeShields Defender

Joey DeZart Midfielder 

Sean Zawadzki Midfielder

Sean O'Hearn Defender 

Gabe Segal Forward

Keegan Hughes Defender

The Glue

Robin Afamefuna Defender

Alistair Johnson Defender Dylan Nealis Defender  Tanner Beason Defender

Cards Yellow Red

27/0 16/0 21/0 34/1
Last Trip To Final Four 2014 2016 2012 2017
Road Traveled

Cambell 2-0

St. John's 3-0

SMU 3-2

Maryland 3-0

Michigan 3-1

UCSB 1-0

Pittsburgh 5-0 

Louisville 5-1



Seattle 1-1

Virginia Tech 2-1

Clemson 1-1

Game #1 Friday, December 13 at 6 P.M. - Georgetown vs. Stanford 

Game #2 Friday, December 13 at 8:30 P.M. - Virginia vs. Wake Forest 

National Championship Game - Sunday, December 15 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2

All three games will be televised on ESPNU 

A Look At The Keys To Victory For The Eight Teams Remaining On The Road To The College Cup

Number eight seed SMU will face number one seed Virginia and number seven seed Stanford will tangle with Clemson on Friday. UC Santa Barbara will face number four seed Wake Forest and number six seed Washington will square off with number three seed Georgetown on Saturday. The four winners will advance to the College Cup the following weekend in Cary, North Carolina. 

Virginia (19-1-1) – Junior midfielder Joe Bell, sophomore forward Daryl Dike and junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler are among the names that are often mentioned, and deservedly so, when discussing the success that Virginia has had this year.

But don’t overlook the steady play and the contribution that junior midfielder Irakoza Donasiyano has had on the Cavaliers from the get-go. It is also noteworthy that freshman forward Axel Gunnarsson (1g, 4a) has added depth to the attack while junior defender Spencer Patton (4g, 1a) and sophomore midfielder Bret Halsey (1g, 2a) are among returning players who have upped the level of their play and their contribution significantly this year. 

Defense is a collective effort at Virginia but a team doesn’t record fifteen shutouts as the Cavaliers have this year without an athletic and composed duo at center back. Junior Henry Kessler and freshman Andres Ueland combine to give Virginia a center back combination that is among the best, if not the best, in the country.

SMU (18-1-1) – The Mustangs entered the 2019 season with a deep roster and a strong desire to make a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament than the 2017 and 2018 teams. The 2017 team that was 17-3-1 was eliminated in the third round and the 2018 team that was 10-5-3 was eliminated in the first round by Oregon State.

Senior forward Garrett McLaughlin (16g, 5a), senior back Eddie Munjoma (11g, 8a), sophomore midfielder Knut Alexander (7g, 12a) who has had a breakout season, and junior goalkeeper Grant Makela (0.82 gaa) are among a solid group of returning players who have played a key role in the Mustang’s 18-1-1 season to date and run to the Elite Eight.  

Newcomers have also made a key contribution. Kevin Hudson did a good job of strengthening his team adding a recruiting class that included four transfers who hit the ground running.  Sophomore Gabriel Costa (7g, 10a) who transferred in from Azusa Pacific University, junior defender Henrik Bredeli (2g, 3a) who transferred from North Carolina, junior defender Brandon Terwege (2g, 3a) who transferred from UCLA and sophomore forward Nick Taylor (0g, 3a) who transferred from New Mexico are among the reasons why this team has been so successful.  

SMU’s lone loss of the 2019 season was a 4-3 setback at home against Memphis. In that contest Memphis effectively counter attacked and converted two headers out of corner kicks including the game-winner in overtime to top SMU. The Mustangs will have to contain counter attacks and tighten up their defense out of set pieces in order to advance past Virginia in the Elite Eight.

UC Santa Barbara (15-4-4) – The Gauchos are playing with house money and enjoying it as the lone non-seeded team in the Elite Eight. UC Santa Barbara’s 2-0 loss to UC Davis in the championship match of the Big West Tournament in which the intensity of their play didn’t match the Aggies appears to have served as a very timely wakeup call.  Since that game the Gauchos have upped the intensity of their play securing a 3-1 win over California, a 4-0 win over twelve seed St. Mary’s 4-0, and a 1-0 win in Bloomington over five seed Indiana 1-0 in overtime. The Gauchos are playing their best soccer of the year. 

Credit UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg for making adjustments that have put his team in the best possible posture to win. The Gauchos will play Wake Forest in the Elite Eight without the services of senior defensive midfielder Sahid Conteh who was injured in the win over California and junior center back Hunter Ashworth who was awarded his eighth yellow card of the season in the win over Indiana. The potential exists for that to take a toll on UCSB’s ability to halt a very dangerous Wake Forest attack.  Defensive midfielders Mateo Restrepo Mejia and freshman Sam Fletcher and backs Noah Billingsley, William Gillingham, and Faouzi Taied are among those who will be tasked with containing a Wake Forest midfield that is among the best in the country. 

Wake Forest (15-4-2) – The Demon Deacons are playing with a renewed sense of energy and focus which is exactly what is needed to survive and advance this time of the year.  Wake Forest has been a bit tough to get a handle on this year in part because they have had injuries that have impacted the consistency of their play.  The Demon Deacons are at their best when knocking the ball around, maintaining possession, moving off the ball and finding a weakness they can exploit. This is a team that truly enjoys the game when they are clicking.

If they get into a rhythm and are able to control the middle third, they are almost unstoppable. Bruno Lapa (9g, 3a) is a prime timer who is capable of taking over a contest.  Kyle Holcomb (9g, 0a) has emerged as a key threat up-top while Machop Chol (4g, 8a), Calvin Harris (6g, 3a) and Isaiah Parente (1g, 7a) add balance to the attack. Regardless, its guys like backs senior Alistair Johnson (2g, 5a) and junior Michael DeShields who are the heart and soul of this team.

Georgetown (17-1-3) – The Hoyas advanced to the national championship contest in 2012 and to the Elite Eight in 2014 but for the most part they have underachieved in NCAA Tournament play. In 2015 the number three seeded Hoyas fell in the Sweet Sixteen. In 2017 the number fourteen seeded Hoyas lost in the second round to SMU in overtime. In 2018 the thirteenth seeded Hoyas were upset by Michigan State in the third round.

The number three seeded 2019 squad may be different due to four factors. First, the Hoyas are playing their best soccer of the year on both sides of the ball as reflected in their 5-0 win over Pitt and 5-1 win over a Louisville team that they lost to 1-0 in regular season play.  Second, this is a very deep team with a lot of guys like sophomore forward Zach Riviere and midfielders Paul Rothrock, Jack Beer and Dante Polvara among others who are capable of making big plays. Third, this team does a very good job of creating and finishing scoring opportunities. Fourth, they have been very effective at matching the physicality of their opponents while continuing to play with the patience and composure they need to settle into a rhythm.   

Washington (17-3-0) – The Huskies have recorded seventeen wins this year for the first time since 1983 and have advanced to the Elite Eight for the second time in the history of the program with the first coming back in 2013. Washington has had trouble in the past finding a balance between big play ability on the offensive side of the ball and solid play on the defensive side of the ball but not this year.

Their attack led by midfielders Blake Bodily (12g, 6a) Lucas Meek (6g, 7a), Jaret Townsend (6g, 1a) and Dylan Teves (1g, 8a) has produced a total of forty-four goals while a solid defense anchored by backs Ethan Bartlow, Kasey French, Freddy Kleeman and Charlie Ostrem and most recently by freshman goalkeeper Sam Fowler but also at times by redshirt junior Bryce Logan has allowed a total of only twelve.

Washington matches up well with Georgetown so their Elite Eight match with the Hoyas is going to come down to which team is able to get into a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball. Neither team wants to have to fall behind and chase the game. 

Stanford (14-2-4) – The Cardinal have advanced to the Elite Eight five years in a row. During that time several of their key wins along the way have been on the road so the fact that they are traveling to face number two seed Clemson is not as big a hurdle as one might think.

Ironically, Stanford’s lone loss in the Elite Eight over the past four years was a contest at home last year in which they were defeated by Akron 3-2. In that contest Stanford uncharacteristically allowed Akron to jump out to a 2-0 lead at halftime. Although Stanford’s play on the defensive side of the ball is their calling card, the Cardinal struggle when they don’t take the game to their opponent.

Stanford can’t allow Clemson to settle into a rhythm and they can’t afford to take their foot off the gas if they hope to leave Historic Riggs Field with a win. 

Clemson – Clemson’s two losses this year were to number four seed Wake Forest 3-2 in overtime and number one seed Virginia 3-1 in the championship match of the ACC Tournament. In both of those games Clemson had a 1-0 advantage at halftime but were unable to hold onto it.

This is a very good Clemson team but in order to advance past Stanford in the Elite Eight they will have to put together two complete halves of play including the first and last five minutes of each half.  Stanford is as good as any team in the country in prevailing in close contests and will have an edge if the contest should require a penalty kick shootout to determine who advances.

Number two seeded Clemson will need to play with a sense of urgency while maintaining the composure and confidence that helped them advance past Charlotte and Providence in overtime to reach the Elite Eight.