Wake Forest and Stanford Advance To Face Each Other Sunday To Determine the 2016 National Championship

The semifinal contests of the 2016 College Cup are now history with only two teams left standing on the road to the National Championship. Wake Forest and Stanford are slated for a showdown on Sunday at 2 p.m. EST at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. The fact that both contests Friday evening were tied at the end of regulation reflected that both semifinals featured very evenly matched teams.

Wake Forest  2 - Denver 1 (OT) - Wake Forest did what good teams do which was to take advantage of the mistakes that opponents make and convert them into scoring opportunities.  The Demon Deacons got on the board first in just the seventh minute of play when red hot forward Jon Bakero intercepted an errant Denver pass and lofted a picture perfect shot into the back of the frame from outside the box.  

To their credit Denver maintained their composure and responded when Andre Shinyashiki alertly collected a rebound of his own shot as great finishers have a knack of doing and sent it back into the net to knot the score at 1-1 in the seventeenth minute of the match. 

The teams went into intermission tied and Wake Forest got the best of it in the second stanza of play recording a ten to two advantage in shots but a bend but don't break Denver defense took care of business and prevented the Deacons from netting the go ahead goal.  As a result the contest remained tied at 1-1 at the conclusion of ninety minutes of play. 

Wake Forest senior midfielder Ian Harkes came up big for Wake Forest as he has often done during a banner tenure in Winston-Salem when he skillfully threaded a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal in the 103rd minute of play out of a breakaway that resulted unexpectedly and uncharacteristically due to a Denver miscue out of one of their own corner kicks.  Harkes' game-winner was set up nicely by a move and pass from Bakero that helped create the space that Harkes needed to conclude the contest. 

Nick Gardner had one save in goal for Denver while Wake Forest netminder Alex Ferrell, who returned to the pitch for the Demon Deacons after a seven game absence due to injury,  recorded a three save evening. 

Credit the Denver backline of Reagan Dunk, Scott Devoss, AJ Fuller, and Kortne Ford that did a great job of getting behind the ball all night with a solid performance despite the outcome.  Ditto the solid performance part for the Deacon backline of Kevin Politz, Logan Gdula, Alex Knox, and Sam Raben which will now face what may be their toughest task of the season  purely from a matchup standpoint when they tangle with Stanford on Sunday.   

The loss was a heartbreaker and the first of the 2016 season for a Denver team that has been brilliant all season. Despite the loss,  this Denver team with twenty wins and the programs first ever trip to the College Cup has forever raised the bar of excellence for the Pioneers.  Under the direction of Jamie Franks, who at thirty is currently  the youngest head coach in Division I soccer, the 2016 Pioneer team has indeed  proved to be a trail blazer for a program that should continue to have success in the future.  Franks has the unique combination of a very effective process oriented approach to the game as well as a Bobby Clark like appreciation for bringing on board the type of players whose individual talents and attitude can be merged together into a unified team for which the sum is greater than the total of the individual parts.

Wake Forest has also thrived under the guidance of Bobby Muuss who has proven to be a perfect fit for the program.  In the two short seasons that Muuss has been at the helm of the program the Deacons have recorded a collective record of 36-5-5 to date and now under Muuss's guidance have the opportunity on the greatest stage in college soccer to secure a National Championship. 

Muuss stated after the contest, "Gutty performance by the Deacons here tonight. We talked about it at halftime and we talked about it before the game, if we are enjoying playing we will be victorious tonight."  He added, "There were definitely goals in that game and I'm glad we were the ones that came out on top but hats off to the University of Denver, Coach Franks, the season that they had, obviously they have a lot to be proud of with that team taking their program to whole new heights by reaching the College Cup."

 Jamie Franks stated, "This is a tough time for our program. In a game like this. I thought we came out and we gave them to much. Fighting futbol has been our mentality from day one and that's what makes us special.  He added, "At the end of the day, I'm extremely proud of these kids.  We did it through recruiting high character kids and pushing them outside their comfort zone. That's why I'm in college soccer and this is not the last you'll hear about Denver we'll be back."

Wake Forest will have the opportunity to have some more enjoyment on Sunday.  This is a team that has climbed a lot of mountains this year and there does not appear to be a mountain too high for them to climb if they play to their potential.  However,  they have one more steep mountain in front of them on Sunday.

Stanford 0 - North Carolina 0 (OT) - This one took ten rounds of a penalty kick shootout before it was determined that Stanford would survive and advance to the National Championship contest to face Wake Forest on Sunday.  The Cardinal very calmly and decisively sent ten straight players to the penalty kick stripe and ten straight made good their attempts with midfielder Amir Bashti netting the tenth. 

North Carolina netminder James Pyle did a very good job of sorting out the direction of the Stanford attempts and appeared to come close to making the big stop on several but as they say close only counts in horse shoes and grenade throwing.  The Cardinal did not blink during any of their attempts despite the mounting pressure that goes along with a penalty kick shootout particularly one that continues as long as this one did.

Penalty kick shootouts in the NCAA Tournament are perhaps among the best examples of the old ABC Wide World of Sports slogan the "Agony of Defeat and the Thrill of Victory."  They are always nail biters with a dramatic and sudden ending that can leave one feeling that there has to be a better way to determine who advances but the bottom line is that there really isn't. This contest could easily have gone on until the early morning hours before anyone found the back of the net in overtime and totally depleted the legs of whoever earned the opportunity to play again with just a single day to rest.

The Cardinal got the best of the run of play in the first half settling into the rhythm of their offense fairly early on.  They did a good job of stretching out the Tar Heels by attacking out wide and then switching the point of attack into space in the middle and vice versa and by mixing things up to utilize the long ball to take advantage of the gaps when they existed. 

Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn seemed pleased with at the conclusion of the first half of play with the fact that the Cardinal was doing a good job of putting together combinations of passes while at the same time he was keenly aware that his team had not been able to find the back of the net and that things could change should a very talented North Carolina offense get into their rhythm.

Tar Heel head coach Carlos Somoano,  who has the best winning percentage among active Division I men's soccer coaches,  indicated at intermission that his front liners needed to put a little more pressure on Stanford to reduce the space or gaps in which Stanford had to operate their attack.

North Carolina did make the adjustments that Somoano referenced and had the best opportunities to score in the second stanza.  However, neither team was able to come up with the combination of passes or the big play needed to score.  As a result the contest remained scoreless at the end of regulation and two ten minute overtime periods resulting in the penalty kick shootout.

Somoano did a good job of trying to find the right combination to find a weakness in the Stanford defense. He made adjustments during the contest utilizing  the different approaches that Tucker Hume, Alan Winn, and Nils Bruening bring to the attack up-top.  He also inserted redshirt freshman Jelani Pieters into the lineup with fifteen minutes remaining in regulation to seek to utilize his speed up-top. The Tar Heels also sought to use the height advantage that Tucker and Walker Hume bring to set pieces but to Stanford's credit they keep such opportunities to a minimum. 

As expected forwards Foster Langsdorf and Corey Baird spearheaded the Cardinal attack playing very well together. Baird had several very effective moves at speed off the dribble that produced scoring opportunities but was unable to finish.  Baird had a four shot evening while Langsdorf, who is always a threat in the attacking third, had three.

Stanford had a whopping ten to one advantage in corner kicks including five during the two overtime periods but North Carolina goalkeeper James Pyle and his backline of Alex Comsia, Colton Storm, and Tucker Hume among others did a good job of keeping the Cardinal from converting.

Both goalkeepers did a good job for their respective teams. Andrew Epstein had three saves in goal for Stanford coming up with several crucial stops.  James Pyle was solid in goal for North Carolina recording six saves.

North Carolina concludes another very successful season with a 14-3-4 overall record.  Stanford improves to 14-3-4 overall and has the chance to secure back-to-back National Championships on Sunday when they square off with Wake Forest in what looks to be an excellent college soccer contest between two teams that deserve to be in the championship match.

2016 College Cup - The Final Four - Tale Of The Tape

The Final Four Stanford North Carolina Wake Forest Denver
The Participants:
Overall Record:  14-3-4 14-3-3 18-2-3 20-0-3
Conference: Pac-12 Atlantic Coast Atlantic Coast Summit League
Conference Record: 8-1-1 5-1-2 5-1-2 5-0-1
Regular Season Finish In Conference Play: 1 Overall  1 Coastal Division 

1 Overall 

1 Atlantic Divison 

1 Overall 
Record Away From Home: 5-1-2 4-0-3 3-1-2 7-0-3


Years At The Helm

Jeremy Gunn

5th Season

Carlos Somoano 

6th Season

Bobby Muuss

2nd Season

Jamie Franks

2nd Season

NCAA Seed: Five Nine  Two Six
Total Goals Scored: 38 38 34 39
Goals Scored Per Game: 1.81 1.90 1.48 1.70
Most Goals Scored In A Single Game  4 7 3 4
Shots Per Game: 15.4 15.6 16.0 13.39
Corner Kicks (Total) 113 139 133 144

Goals Allowed:

14 10 11 11
Most Goals Allowed In A Single Game: 2 (4 times) 2 (3 times) 2 (1 time)  3 (1 time)
Total Number Shutouts: 11 13 13 14
Unbeaten Streak 5 3 12 23
Last Loss: Washington (0-1) Boston College (0-1) Clemson (0-1) None This Season
Power Rating (RPI): 5 10 3 7



Multi-Dimensional Offense 




Collective Team Effort


How They Beat You: Set Pieces Stout Defense   Run of Play Team Effort 
Top Scorer:

Foster Langsdorf

(15g, 2a)

Tucker Hume (7g, 4a)

Nils Bruening (8g, 1a)

Jacori Hayes

(8g, 3a)

Andre Shinyashiki

(8g, 5a)

Number Players With Four Goals Are More: 3 5 4 5
Key Distributor:

Corey Baird

(3g, 6a)

Nico Melo 

(1g, 8a)

Ian Harkes 

(4g, 4a)

Sam Hamilton

(0g, 9a) 

Key Defender: Tomas Hilliard-Arce Colton Storm  Kevin Politz  Reagan Dunk

Andrew Epstein

(0.63 GAA)

James Pyle

(0.48 GAA)

Alex Ferrell (0.51 GAA)

Andre Cases Mundet

(0.43 GAA)

Nick Gardner


Don't Underestimate:

Drew Skundrich 

(4g, 3a)

Zach Wright

(5g, 7a)

Jon Bakero 

(6g, 3a)

Blake Elder

(7g. 2a) 

Freshman To Watch:

Derek Waldeck (1g, 3a)


Cam Lindley


Ema Twumasi


Where They Have The Edge: Up-Top Backline Midfield  Up-Top 
Wild Card (The X-Factor)

Amir Bashti  


Drew Murphy


Ema Twumasi 


Karsten Hanlin 


A Key Element: 

Brian Nana-Sinkam


Walker Hume


Brad Dunwell 


Konte Ford


Last Trip To College Cup: 2015 2011 2009 None
The Road Traveled:

Pacific  2-0 (home)

Virginia 1-0 (home)

Louisville 2-0 (road) 

FGCU 3-2 ot (home)

Syracuse 1-0 (road)

Providence 1-0 (home)

Coastal Carolina 2-0 (home)

SIUE 2-1 (home)

Virginia Tech 2-0 (home) 

UNLV 3-0 (home)

Washington 2-1 (home)

Clemson 1-0 (road)

Semi-Final Opponent:  North Carolina Tarheels Stanford Cardinal Denver Pioneers  Wake Forest Demon Deacons 

Wake Forest and Stanford Prevail To Round Out A Stellar College Cup Field

Wake Forest tops fellow ACC member Virginia Tech 2-0 and Stanford took to the road and came away with an impressive 2-0 win over Louisville to claim the two final spots in the College Cup and set up what looks to be a really intriguing College Cup (Final Four) .

#2 seed Wake Forest  2 - Virginia Tech 0 - Wake Forest defeats fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Virginia Tech to return to the College Cup for the fifth time in the history of the program and the first time since the 2009 season.  

Last year the Demon Deacons' season came to an earlier than desired end in the Elite Eight when they were upended at home by eventual National Champion Stanford 2-1 in overtime to conclude their season with a 17-3-2 overall record.  This year a very experienced and determined Wake Forest team was not about to suffer the same fate. 

However the outcome of the contest with an equally determined Virginia Tech team was in doubt until the eightieth minute of the game when senior midfielder and playmaker Ian Harkes sent a pass into the box to freshman midfielder Ema Twumasi who controlled it and skillfully created the separation he needed to drive a low shot into the back of the net to break the ice and give Wake Forest a 1-0 advantage. Twumasi then in effect put the contest on ice for the Demon Deacons a little over two minutes later when he alertly sent the rebound of his own shot back into the net to make it 2-0 Wake Forest before a crowd of 3,410 fans that were on hand at Spry Stadium in Winston Salem.

Freshman goalkeeper Andreu Cases Mundet, who assumed the starting role between the pipes several  contests ago when redshirt senior Alec Ferrell sustained an injury, had a one save evening to notch his fourth shutout to date and the thirteenth for the program this year. Mundet was supported by a tenacious Wake Forest backline consisting of junior Kevin Politz who is in his third year as a starter, sophomore Logan Gdula, freshman Alex Knox and sophomore Sam Raben who is in his second year as a starter.  The Wake Forest defense has allowed a total of only eleven goals this year.

Junior and team captain Ben Lundgaard had six saves in goal for Virginia Tech.

Wake Forest powered in part by one of the best midfields in the country got the best of the run of play and pressed the attack throughout the contest with an eighteen to five advantage in shots for the evening including an eight to one advantage in shots on goal.  

The ACC Champion Demon Deacons improve to 18-2-3 overall and are now unbeaten in their last twelve contests.  You have to go back to the end of September to find a contest in which Wake Forest came out on the short end of the score.

Virginia Tech under the direction head coach Mike Brizendine finishes an impressive breakthrough type year with a 13-5-4 overall record.  The success and progress that the Hokies experienced this year would not have likely been foreseen by even the most diehard Virginia Tech supporter.  Virginia Tech capped off a banner season with wins over East Tennessee State, number ten seed Charlotte, and number seven seed Indiana to advance to the Elite Eight. Look for the 2015 campaign to be a springboard for continued success on the pitch in the future for the Hokies.

Wake Forest under the guidance of second year head coach Bobby Muuss continues to display a very productive multi-dimensional attack and very solid play on the defensive side to the ball.  The Elite Eight win over Virginia Tech sets up an interesting match between Wake Forrest and an equally hot University of Denver team that also has a dangerous multi-dimensional attack and a defense that has allowed only eleven goals this year. 

Muuss had a successful eight season tenure as the head coach at Denver before leaving to accept the head coaching job at Wake Forest.  Denver's second year head coach Jamie Franks was an assistant coach at Denver under Muuss and is no stranger to the program at Wake Forest having had a very productive tenure there as a player and as a member of the 2007 Demon Deacon squad that won the National Championship. 

While the linkages with Muuss and Franks may make for an interesting story line they will not have any impact on the outcome of the contest between the Deacons and the Pioneers. What is important is that this will be the first time that either Muuss or Franks will have been the head coach of a team in the College Cup. 

The Wake Forest and Denver contest is scheduled to get underway in Houston on Friday at 6 p.m. EST and will be shown on ESPNU.  This contest between two very hot teams falls into the category of a "something has to give" match.

#5 seed Stanford 2 - #4 seed Louisville 0 - The Stanford Cardinal out of the Pac-12 representing the hopes of the west coast took their act on the road traveling to Louisville where they secured an impressive road win over the Louisville Cardinals out of the ACC.  The victory enables Stanford to continue their quest for back-to-back National Championships.  Winning one National Championship is a real accomplishment but winning consecutive national titles rarely occurs. 

The Cardinal who entered the season without five key and experienced starters had huge gaps to plug on both sides of the ball but they have continued to gel and improve as the season progressed.  Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn summed it up perfectly and accurately when he stated, "We graduated out incredible players and people that had been heartbeat of the team. What you hope as a staff is to create a culture that celebrates graduating on great players and then cultivates the next great player to come along.  That's what we've managed to do this year." 

Junior forward Foster Langsdorf, who has continually displayed the ability to come up with big goals in clutch situations, converted a header out of a corner kick served in by freshman midfielder Derek Waldeck in the sixty-fourth minute that gave Stanford the important first goal of the contest and a 1-0 advantage.  The goal was number fifteen on the season for Langsdorf and his eighth game-winner to date.

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Sam Werner contributed the insurance goal for the Cardinal when he sent a picture perfect bending ball out of a free kick into the back of the frame from twenty-eight yards out in the seventy-ninth minute of the match.

Redshirt junior Andrew Epstein who is in his third season year as a starter had a four save evening in goal to anchor the Stanford defense behind a stout backline that features junior Tomas Hilliard-Arce who is a three-year starter, senior Brian Nana-Sinkam a three-year starter,  redshirt Tanner Beason and redshirt sophomore Adam Mosharrafa.  

Louisville concludes a very productive 2016 season with a 14-6-2 overall record.  The Cardinals advanced to the Elite Eight with wins over UCLA and Notre Dame.

Stanford continues on the road to the National Championship with a showdown on their dance card next Friday with another ACC team, number ten seed North Carolina (14-3-3). This matchup features two teams who like to attack but also have been very solid on the defensive side of the ball.  The Tar Heels have only allowed a total of ten goals to date while Stanford has only allowed opponents to find the back of the net a total of fourteen times and has recorded five consecutive shutouts. 

Both teams had to go on the road and win a tough contest to advance to the College Cup.  North Carolina traveled to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen and came away with a hard fought 1-0 win while Stanford had an equally daunting task when they traveled to Louisville in the Elite Eight.

Stanford has the advantage of having the experience of being in the College Cup environment last year.  North Carolina has not been on that stage since the 2011 campaign. However Tar Heel mentor Carlos Somoano like Stanford's Gunn has been there before.  Somoano has stated, "We're going to Houston with high ambitions. We're not going there to celebrate, we're going there to achieve." 

This contest, which is slated for Friday night at 8:45 p.m. EST, will be carried live on ESPNU.  It has the makings of a contest that could come down to the wire.