Semifinal No. 1
No. 3 Notre Dame (15-1-6, 7-1-3 ACC) vs. No. 7 New Mexico (14-5-2, C-USA 7-1-1)
5 pm ET; ESPNU
Path to the Semifinals
- Round of 32: Notre Dame 4, Wisconsin 0
- Sweet 16: Notre Dame 4, Wake Forest 2
- Elite 8: Notre Dame 2, Michigan State 1
- Round of 32: New Mexico 1, George Mason 0
- Sweet 16: New Mexico 2, Penn State 0
- Elite 8: Washington 0, New Mexico 1
This is Notre Dame’s first trip to the College Cup, but there’s no question that the Fighting Irish deserve to be here. Their first season in the cutthroat ACC ended with just one loss, and their remarkably consistent output on offense hasn’t wavered down the stretch. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan has caught fire recently, scoring five goals in Notre Dame’s five games since the end of the regular season, while senior striker Harrison Shipp has added four of his own to bring his season total to 12.
The Lobos will counter the Irish attack with a backline led by 6-foot-3, 190-pound redshirt senior center back Kyle Venter, one of MLS’ 50 invitees to the Combine. New Mexico had to put in a stalwart defensive effort in the second half of their Elite 8 game against No. 2 Washington and were able to keep the Huskies off the board. The question is now whether they can do the same against Notre Dame’s more explosive offense.
Future Pros to Watch
Harrison Shipp, M, Notre Dame (Chicago Fire) – The Fire confirmed last week that Shipp is, in fact, a Homegrown product, and it seems like a given that he’ll be headed to Chicago in 2014. He is quick, skillful, and has a high soccer IQ, meaning that he can make an immediate impact upon reaching MLS.
Kyle Venter, D, New Mexico – Looks the part of the prototypical center back, and he’s got the toughness to go with it. He’ll have his hands full with Notre Dame’s quickness, but the Lobos have been able to shut down some staggeringly productive offenses this year, and Venter has more often than not been leading the charge. Any team looking for a big, physical presence in the middle of their defense – a la Victor Bernardez, if you need an example – should be keeping an eye on him. He's a sure first-round pick.
Patrick Hodan, M, Notre Dame – The sophomore midfielder will have to wait a little while to make it to MLS, particularly because he’s not Homegrown eligible. On the other hand, maybe not, because the crafty, skilled right-sided midfielder has a knack for scoring goals, and his most recent against Michigan State was superb. At 5-foot-9 and 145 pounds, he won’t wow you with his physique, but then again, Boniek Garcia is roughly the same size and has a similar skill set, and he’s done OK for himself in MLS.