MLS academy products featured prominently in the College Cup final at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston on Sunday afternoon, where the Stanford Cardinal won their second straight NCAA men's soccer national championship by edging Wake Forest in a tense penalty-kick shootout after a scoreless draw. (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE)
In shades of the MLS Cup drama that unfolded in Toronto the night before, neither side could find the net over 110 minutes of end-to-end play in regulation time and the 20-minute extra time period at the home ground of the Houston Dynamo.
That set the stage for Stanford goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, a product of the Colorado Rapids academy, to play the hero with saves on Wake Forest's last two spot kicks as the Cardinal won the shootout 5-4.
The result was Stanford's second consecutive shootout win – they outlasted North Carolina in a 10-round PK marathon in Friday's semifinal – and capped a tournament run in which they did not concede a single goal. Last year's Cardinal squad was built around Jordan Morris, who attained college soccer's highest honors before leaving school early to sign an historic Homegrown deal with the Seattle Sounders.
Sunday's championship match featured a dozen players with MLS academy ties. Stanford's lineup included Epstein, Portland Timbers academy alums Foster Langsdorf and Sam Werner, San Jose Earthquakes product Amir Bashti, Jared Gilbey (New York Red Bulls), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake – Arizona) and Bryce Marion (Houston Dynamo academy).
Wake Forest were led by D.C. United academy product Ian Harkes, son of former D.C. and US national team star John, and also relied on Brad Dunwell (Chicago Fire), Sam Raben (Rapids) and Kevin Politz and Steven Echevarria (Red Bulls).
Epstein was named the College Cup's most outstanding defensive player, while Harkes won most outstanding offensive player.