MLSsoccer.com college soccer beat writer Daniel Robertson takes a look at the second NCAA College Cup semifinal on Friday between Creighton and Indiana (7:30 pm ET; ESPNU).
Road to the College Cup – The Hoosiers toppled some major giants on their way to Hoover, beating Xavier 4-1 before upsetting top-ranked Notre Dame 2-1 in South Bend. They capped it off by ending UNC’s 40-game home unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory last weekend.
Creighton rode their luck a bit, but got it done when it mattered beating Washington 4-2 before shocking Akron with a penalty-kick win. They booked their ticket to the College Cup with an 89th-minute game-winner in last week’s 1-0 win at Connecticut.
Creighton X-Factor – Freshman forward Timo Pitter
Pitter came into the 2012 season as a complete unknown from Oberschwarzach, Germany, but the tiny attacker has made a name for himself in recent weeks. He leads Creighton with 10 goals on the season, scoring in two of the Blue Jays’ three games during the NCAA Tournament. With the Indiana defense keying on Jose Gomez, the majority of Creighton’s chances could fall to Pitter.
Indiana X-Factor – Sophomore forward Eriq Zavaleta
Shockingly left off the MAC Hermann Award finalists, Zavaleta (above) has taken the NCAA by storm this year scoring 18 goals in the offensively stingy Big 10, tied for the third-most in the country. Many have likely heard about Zavaleta but never seen him in action, so the College Cup could be the Indiana native’s coming-out party while he angles for a potential Generation adidas contract and Top 5 draft slot.
Key Matchup – Creighton’s Zach Barnes vs. Indiana’s A.J. Corrado
If Zavaleta is the engine that runs the Hoosiers’ attack, Corrado is the fuel for that engine. The attacking midfielder has notched 12 assists this year, third most in the country, and most of them have come on Zavaleta goals. The task of stopping him will fall to defensive midfielder Zach Barnes, an underrated defensive midfielder from North Texas. Ironically, they are both linked by the fact that they transferred to their respective schools from SMU.
Creighton boast the longest remaining unbeaten streak in the country, having gone 14 games since their last defeat. The Blue Jays are also 3-0-3 in overtime matches this season, while head coach Elmar Bolowich is coaching in his fifth straight College Cup.
They said it
"This group, I couldn't be more happy for them," head coach Todd Yeagley told the Indiana University website. "I am proud of our players and how they have stayed the course. There is a lot of expectation with this program and these players are playing the best when the pressure is greatest.”
Both teams are red-hot heading into this match and while Jose Gomez is a transcendent college player for Creighton, I think Indiana has a bit more around the field to threaten the Blue Jays defense. Give me the Hoosiers in a squeaker, 2-1.