It Is Gut Check Time For Teams Coast To Coast With A Lot Of Key College Soccer Games On Tap This Weekend.
Washington (12-0-1) at Oregon State (5-3-3) – Friday – A very capable Oregon State team is coming off a productive 3-2 win over Portland and a 2-2 tie with Stanford. Their attack has not been as explosive as in the past, but this one belongs on the upset watch list if for no other reasons than the fact that the Beavers have momentum and they historically give Washington a tough time.
The fact that Washington is averaging 2.69 goals per game and allowing an average of only 0.38 goals per game pretty much speaks for itself. Forwards Ilijah Paul and Nick Scardina and midfielder Lucas Meek are among a host of Washington players who are capable of scoring in multiples.
The Huskies should prevail, but in order to do so they must bring their A game against what will be a motivated Oregon State team.
Pittsburgh (7-3-3) at Duke (10-0-3) – Friday -When they put in a full ninety minutes of play Pitt is capable of beating anyone but lapses in play have hampered the Panthers throughout the season. If Pitt can avoid costly lapses, they have a good shot at upsetting Duke.
It is pretty much a given that the play of Pitt midfielders Valentin Noel (6g, 3a) and Jackson Walti (1g, 0a) and Duke midfielders Shakur Mohammed (9g, 2a) and Peter Stroud (1g, 4a) will factor into the outcome. Pitt midfielder Filip Mirkovic (3g, 9a) and Duke back Amir Daley (1g, 1a) are the X-Factors for their respective teams.
The Blue Devils have not lost at home so far and two of Pitt’s three losses have come on the road. The momentum in this one will likely shift several times with both teams attacking down the flanks to open the field of play to create a seam they can exploit. It is noteworthy that Pitt has been without the services of forward Bertin Jacquesson in their last two games.
The bottom line is that this game could go either way with a lot depending on which team can apply pressure and push numbers forward without leaving themselves vulnerable for a counterattack.
Stanford (7-1-4) at UCLA (7-4-1) – Sunday – Winning on the road in general in Pac-12 play is always problematic.
Stanford has a difficult week on the road with a game against a San Diego State team on Thursday that they had a scoreless draw with at home back on September 18 despite having a 23-2 advantage in shots. Stanford also had a scoreless tie with UCLA when they hosted the Bruins on September 15. The Cardinal had a 15 to 2 advantage in shots in that one.
Stanford is talented but they remain a work in progress deep into the season. The Cardinal will create scoring opportunities but their fate depends on whether they can finish some of them. There is a good chance that Stanford’s contests with UCLA and San Diego State will be decided by a single goal with the team that scores first having a huge advantage.
Two on the road Pac-12 wins for Stanford would be huge. Two losses not so good.
Kentucky (8-0-5) at Indiana (7-2-4) – Saturday – Indiana is undefeated in their last seven matches during which they have gone 4-0-3. The Hoosiers are coming off a 4-2 win over Penn State and a 2-1 win over Wisconsin during which things appear to be coming together on the offensive side of the ball for the Hoosiers. IU is doing a much better job of putting together the combinations that they need to successfully create and finish scoring opportunities. Forwards Ryan Wittenbrink (6g, 5a), Tommy Mihalic (5g, 2a) and Herbert Endeley (3g, 6a) have been difference makers.
Kentucky comes into the contest off ties with Dayton 2-2, West Virginia 3-3, and Coastal Carolina 0-0. It is impressive that Kentucky is unbeaten in 12 contests, but they are likely a somewhat frustrated team right now. Coming up with the big play they need to close out contests and settling into a balance between offensive pressure and defensive stability are among the keys for the Wildcats moving forward.
This non-conference contest should be revealing as well as a big momentum and resume builder for the winner.
Wake Forest (12-3-0) at Virginia (8-4-2) – Saturday –Wake Forest is 4-2-0 in ACC play. Virginia is 4-1-1 in ACC play. This game is significant because it has the potential to be a tipping point for both programs. Both teams are at a point where they will benefit greatly from the momentum and standing that will come from a win in this one.
Both will likely attack with Virginia focusing on creating situations that they can exploit through a counterattack. Wake Forest is hard to beat when they put together two solid halves of play, but should they have a lapse in play and be forced to chase the Cavaliers from behind then they will be in trouble.
Look for transitions and restarts to be a factor in this one. The margin for error for both teams is small.
Xavier (9-0-5) at Georgetown (7-4-3) – Saturday – This is the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. Xavier is 3-0-4 in Big East play. Georgetown is 5-1-1 in Big East play. The Musketeers are among a handful of unbeaten teams and are having a banner season under first year head coach John Higgins.
Xavier is the favorite from the standpoint of national ranking but that would be misleading. The Hoyas who entered the season with a ton of gaps to plug have turned things around after beginning the year with a 1-4-2 overall record and are undefeated in their last seven games (6-0-1). In other words, Georgetown has experienced a learning curve and now seems to be playing Hoyas soccer. They are not winning big but they are winning.
There is much to feel good about what Xavier has accomplished to date but the fact that they have five draws to date indicates that they have a small margin for error. Xavier could prevail but they will have to play their best soccer of the year to have a chance of topping a now hot Georgetown side on the road.
Much will hinge on which team is able to settle into a rhythm that will enable them to dictate the tempo.
Picture from Oregon State Athletics