MLSsoccer.com college soccer beat writer Daniel Robertson takes a look at the first NCAA College Cup semifinal on Friday between Maryland and Georgetown (5 pm ET; ESPNU).
Road to the College Cup – Ironically, Georgetown’s toughest opponent may have come in their first match. The Hoyas beat UNC Charlotte 1-0 in the second round, slid past Syracuse on PKs in the Sweet 16 and came from behind to top San Diego 3-1 in the round of eight.
Maryland’s road to Hoover was traveled with relative ease, topping Brown 2-1 and throttling Coastal Carolina 5-1 before a 3-1 defeat of Louisville.
Maryland X-Factor – Junior forward Patrick Mullins
The big 6-foot-1 target man (above) terrorized ACC defenses this year to the tune of 16 goals in 23 matches. He’s not someone who has a flashy game that blows your socks off, rather relying on a fantastic ability to be in the right place at the right time with the size to hold off defenders. If he finds space in the box, it will be a long day for the Hoyas.
Georgetown X-Factor – Junior midfielder Steve Neumann
One of 15 finalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy given to the best player in NCAA soccer, Neumann sits just behind freshman forward Brandon Allen as the offensive engine that runs the Hoyas attack. His 13 assists this season were tied for second-most in the NCAA and without a whole lot of depth behind him, the Hoyas will need Neumann to come up big if they plan on upsetting Maryland in their first-ever College Cup appearance.
Key Matchup – Georgetown’s Ian Christanson vs. Maryland’s John Stertzer
These two seniors who could go in the first round of next month's SuperDraft will be battling all game long for control of the midfield. If the more attack-minded Stertzer can get the better of Christianson, the Terrapins should carve the Hoyas defense apart. However, with the news recently coming out that Christianson will be draft-eligible rather than a Chicago Fire Homegrown, the College Cup will be something of an MLS audition for the former Big East Midfielder of the Year.
In 28 all-time meetings, Georgetown have never beaten Maryland, as the Terps are an incredible 28-0 against their beltway counterparts.
“This feeling is just awesome,” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese told the Hoyas’ official website after beating San Diego in the round of eight. “This postseason has been really interesting for this team since we were expected the get there, being the three seed, but we've never done it before. How you manage that dual mentality is really interesting, and I'm so proud of them."
Georgetown have allowed multiple goals in a game just twice this season, but I don’t see how their defense can stop Maryland, the NCAA’s top-scoring offense. In what should be the more exciting of the two semifinals, Maryland wins a shootout, 4-2.