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Men’s College Soccer. Gut Check Time. A Look At Several Of The Challenging Contests On Tap This Weekend.

Conference And National Standing On The Line In These Contests At Venues Coast To Coast.

Wake Forest (8-0-0) vs. Clemson (7-1-0) – Saturday –For the second weekend in a row Historic Riggs Field in Clemson is the venue of the marquee men’s college soccer game of the week. Last week it was Syracuse vs. the then number one Clemson Tigers. This week it is the current number one Wake Forest vs. Clemson.

It should be an attack oriented back and forth contest with momentum shifts. Clemson powered by Ousmane Sylla (4g, 5a), Mohamed Seye (2g, 6a) and Isaiah Reid (3g, 0a) has a more balanced and explosive attack. Wake Forest has a more experienced and stable backline that includes juniors Garrison Tubbs, Prince Amponsah, Jahlane Fobes and Kijima Hosei.

This one could go either way with the difference maker likely coming down to which team is able to settle into a balance that will enable them to apply pressure on their opponents without leaving themselves vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball. Fasten your seat belts for what will be an exciting college soccer match.

Charlotte (7-0-0) vs. Tulsa (4-1-1) Sunday Charlotte has scored an amazing 31 times in seven contests. It is impressive when you consider the fact that the 49ers have already put the ball in the back of the net two more times than they did in the entire 2021 season.

Senior forwards Kameron Lacey (6g, 2a) and Alex Willis (5g, 3a) lead an explosive 49ers attack that includes 12 players who have scored and six who have contributed three or more goals. Combine that with the fact that Charlotte has allowed a total of only two goals and the result is a team that rocketed upward in the rankings. Charlotte faces their greatest challenge so far this year when they hit the road for the first time since their season opening win over Connecticut to square off with an extremely competitive but inconsistent Tulsa team.

Tulsa is coming off a 3-0 loss on the road to FIU during which they played poorly on both sides of the ball and a 3-0 win on the road over Missouri State during which they performed well on both sides of the ball. Sometimes that occurs due to a lack of focus. Regardless of the reason the X-Factor for Tulsa coming into the game with Charlotte is which Golden Hurricane team will show up. Will it be the one that lost to FIU or the one that topped Missouri State.

A win for Charlotte in this one will affirm their high ranking while a loss has the potential to bring it into question. A Tulsa win will signal that the Golden Hurricane are back on track.

Kentucky (5-0-2) vs. Georgia State (6-0-1) – Saturday – This one is among the most intriguing and perhaps revealing matchups of the weekend with national and Sun Belt Conference standing on the line. The Wildcats seek to maintain their high national ranking and Georgia State seeks to move into the national rankings.

Some might think this one will be an easy win for a highly ranked Kentucky team against an unranked Georgia State side but that would be a mistake. Kentucky is a stronger team from top to bottom which may give them an edge as the game progresses, but this is a solid Georgia State team that has established in the past that they can hold their own with anyone.

Kentucky is coming off back-to-back 1-0 ties with Tulsa and Marshall and a 3-2 win over a competitive Lipscomb side. Georgia State is coming off a 3-1 win in their Sun Belt Conference opener with James Madison. Georgia State is unbeaten to so far, but Kentucky is by far the most challenging opponent they have faced.

Look for the play of Kentucky forward Eythor Bjorgolfsson and midfielder Nick Gutmann to have an impact on the outcome. Georgia State has a balanced attack that could present matchup problems for Kentucky.

This one warrants inclusion on the upset watch list.

West Virginia (2-4-1) vs. Marshall (4-1-1) – We know Marshall is very competitive but how that is going to translate in terms of wins and losses is still to be determined. The Thundering Herd’s record to date includes a unexpected early season 1-0 loss to Butler, a signature 2-1 win over Pittsburgh, and a 1-1 tie with Sun Belt Conference foe Kentucky.

West Virginia has not had anywhere near the season so far that was expected with losses to Pitt 3-0, Penn State 3-2, Yale 2-1 and most recently Portland 2-1.

This is a rivalry match so you can forget the play of the teams to date. Anything can happen. Much will hinge on the level of energy and composure that the teams bring into the game.

A win in this one could jump start West Virginia’s disappointing season to date which makes it an interesting contest. Marshall should prevail but they cannot afford to take the Mountaineers for granted.

Washington (6-0-1) vs. Grand Canyon (3-3-1) – Saturday – This is another contest on paper that should be all Washington but games are not played on paper.

Grand Canyon has an upset win at home over UCLA 3-2 and a 2-2 tie with UC Santa Barbara on the road in which the Gauchos secured the draw with a goal in the last two minutes of the match. Grand Canyon is vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball which should give a multi-dimensional Washington attack powered by Ilijah Paul (8g, 1a) and midfielders Lucas Meek (4g, 5a) and Christian Soto (3g, 0a) the edge they need to prevail.

On the other hand, Washington’s 1-1 tie with Air Force earlier in the season indicates it is possible to contain their offense. If Grand Canyon can do that, they have a chance to pull off another upset.

Ohio State (5-0-3) vs. Maryland (4-1-2) – Sunday – Maryland has been productive on the offensive side of the ball but porous on occasion on defense. The Terps will seek to place Ohio State under pressure. The issue is whether they can do that without leaving themselves vulnerable on defense.

Ohio State is coming off a huge 2-1 win at home over Indiana followed by a disappointing scoreless tie on the road with Cleveland State.

This is an important match for both teams in terms of standing in the Big Ten and on the national scene. It is going to take a full ninety minutes of play to come out on top. Letdowns on the defensive side of the ball will be costly in this one. Neither team is going to want to have to chase the contest. If Maryland can settle into a good balance between offensive pressure and defensive stability, they should prevail.

Expect a back-and-forth intense multi-goal game before what will be an electric pro Terp crowd at Ludwig Field. Midfielder Xavier Green will be a catalyst and pace setter on the offensive side of the ball for Ohio State. Midfielder Malcom Johnson is among the guys who will set the pace for Maryland.

Dayton (5-0-1) vs. Rhode Island (4-0-4) – Saturday – Dayton has the national ranking, but Rhode Island has played a more competitive schedule. Look for that, the home field advantage, and the play of forwards Patrick Agyemang and Rafa Villanueva to give Rhode Island the edge.

Dayton comes into this game off a disappointing 1-1 tie at home with Saint Joseph’s during which they had a 21 to 4 advantage in shots. The Flyers have scored a total of 21 goals so far while only allowing four, but they will have to do a better job of finishing the opportunities that come their way in the attacking third to leave Kingston with a win.

This one belongs on the upset watch list.

Stanford (4-0-3) vs UC Santa Barbara (5-1-2) – Saturday – Stanford comes into this contest off a 1-1 tie with Creighton followed by back-to-back scoreless ties with UCLA and San Diego State. Stanford played well in all three of the ties which bodes well for their play down the road but there is no getting around the fact that they have not displayed the big play ability needed to close out games.

On the plus side the Cardinal backline anchored by veteran defenders Keegan Tingey and Keegan Hughes and redshirt senior goalkeeper Matt Frank has posted five shutouts and only allowed a total of two goals. Yes, Stanford is undefeated and they have had a large shot advantage over their opponents but to win they must find a way to finish a portion of the opportunities that come their way.

UC Santa Barbara comes into the match off an emotional 2-1 win over Cal Poly in which forward Salvador Aguilar converted the game-winning goal with only 12 seconds remaining.  Aguilar, forwards Finn Ballard McBride (3g, 0a) and Alexis Ledoux and midfielder Lucas Gonzalez are among the keys on the offensive side of the ball for UCSB.

There are a lot of unknows heading into this one. However there are two things that we do know. The game will be a momentum and confidence builder for the winner and there will be an enthusiastic partisan Gaucho crowd on hand at Harder Stadium to watch this one.

Picture from Maryland Athletics

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