by GIANFRANCO PANIZO
The NCAA Final will be won by an ACC team, but not by the ACC team most thought would lift the NCAA College Cup trophy this year.
With defending champion Wake Forest eliminated after a stunning semifinal upset, Maryland and North Carolina have a date with destiny after posting 1-0 victories yesterday to advance to Sunday's NCAA Final at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas (1pm, ESPN2). The semifinal routes each team took to get to the final couldn't have been anymore different.
North Carolina managed to stun top-seeded and defending national champion Wake Forest with a swift strike from Brian Shriver in the fourth minute while Maryland had to go into double overtime to find the winner in their match with St. John's, with Graham Zusi delivering a beautiful free-kick winner.
The early goal did help the Tar Heels gain momentum but it wasn't the only contributing factor to their victory. Stout defending from Ryan Adeleye and Sheanon Williams was just as vital as the pair of center backs helped conserve the shutout.
Maryland, the number two seeded team, won their game thanks in part to an 104th minute goal from Zusi. Zusi, the Terp's offensive orchestrator, nailed a free kick from 25 yards out that gave his team a well deserved lead.
Though it took a late goal, the Terps outplayed and out-gunned St. John's yesterday creating 19 opportunities compared to the Red Storm's putrid three. St John's has now been eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Maryland for the fourth straight time.
With all the attention now turned to the final, one has got to wonder if the exhausting double overtime is going to prove costly for the Terrapins. However, if anyone can accomplish that feat, it's Maryland. The Terps are undefeated against the Tar Heels since 2003 and they beat North Carolina twice this year.
What did you think of the Final Four matches? Were you impressed by UNC's defense? How about Maryland's dangerous attack? Disappointed by Wake, or did sure-fire first-round MLS Draft picks Marcus Tracey and Ike Opara show you what all the scouts are raving about? Who do you see winning tomorrow, the dangerous Terrapins or Cinderella Tar Heels?
Share your thoughts below.
Well, one might call UNC a “cinderella” because of their low seed at #13, but that was mainly due to some late-season slip in form. They were 10-3-1 in late October, then went on a 4 game slide. The Tarheels are a dangerous team with plenty of talent. They will also be looking to avenge 2 close losses to the Terps from the regular season and the ACC tourney. Maryland surely knows it’s hard to beat a team 3 times in the same season.
My call: UNC 2 Maryland 1
I enjoyed the Final Four matches so far although was a little erratic at times.
UNC played better against Wake Forest than I was expecting and perhaps was a little lucky when Marcus Tracey’s header hit the top post.
I see Maryland winning tomorrow by a goal but don’t count the Tar Heels out. They are playing their best soccer when it counts most.
What was attendance like for the semi-finals? What about today with two east coast teams?