Home teams hold serve.
In a season that has been littered with parity, the majority of games have been won by the higher seeded (home) team. Can this streak continue?
Here is the breakdown of the third round games:
Home team listed first. (W-D-L)
All games to be played Sunday, November 28. Local time listed.
#1 Seed Louisville’s Region:
Louisville (17-3-0) vs Ohio State (11-3-5)
Breakdown: By Tuesday afternoon, Louisville had sold out all the seats in their stadium for this game. That means four days before kick-off, the Cardinals had already sold over 3,000 tickets. Standing room tickets are still available for those interested.
Louisville earned the right to host this game by getting the top seed in the NCAA tournament. They were the regular season Big East Red Division champions. They also won the Big East tournament title over Providence in penalty kicks. And they remain the last undefeated team in the country.
In the second round, they got two goals in the last ten minutes to propel them into the next round holding off a feisty College of Charleston side. The victory marked the first postseason win in program history.
As for their opponents, Ohio State used some stellar play from goalkeeper Matt Lampson to get into the third round. Lampson blocked a penalty kick in the first half, then made a point blank save in the second half to keep Providence off the scoreboard until a late header beat him.
The Buckeyes picked up goals from Konrad Warzycha and Omar Vallejo in the second half to give the Big Ten team the victory over the Friars.
Players to watch:
Colin Rolfe, Forward, Louisville
Rolfe provided the game-winning goal in the second round game against College of Charleston. It was the seventh goal of the season for the junior from Michigan. Rolfe has had some timely strikes lately for the Cardinals. In the Big East championship, he rifled a shot from 20 yards out into the upper right corner to open the scoring in the 85th minute.
Rolfe has a cultured foot and is capable of burying a shot from inside 30 yards. He gives opposing defenses trouble because he dribbles at speed and is willing to try his luck from distance. Ohio State will need to slow him down to keep the Cardinals offense in quarantine.
Matt Lampson, Goalkeeper, Ohio State
Lampson showed what he was capable of in the second round with his very crucial saves. With the score even at zeros, Lampson made a diving save to prevent a Providence penalty kick from giving the visitors the lead.
The penalty kick would become the turning point in the game as Ohio State took over the game shortly after that momentum swing. When Providence’s offense finally did respond after the second Ohio State goal, Lampson made a save on a point blank shot on the play following kick-off.
The sophomore keeper from Ohio is capable of changing the outcome of this game by putting on a performance like the one from last Sunday.
Home field advantage is a huge factor in this game. Louisville are 9-1-0 at home this season. They had an announced attendance of 5,197 for their second round game. This one will be bigger and even more intimidating.
History is on the side of Ohio State. Last Sunday was the first NCAA tournament win in Louisville history. Ohio State also hold the series edge with a 7-2-4 record. The Buckeyes have only made it past the third round once, 2007. That year, they went on make the finals before falling to Wake Forest.
On paper, Louisville have more talent but their schedule of opponents leaves some questions about this team in tough games. Mainly, a question about their conference as they are now the lone representative from the Big East left in the NCAA tourney.
The crowd will be the biggest factor in this clash. If Ohio State can handle the atmosphere, they will have a shot at making the quarterfinals. If Louisville feeds off the energy in the stadium, they will jump on top of their Big Ten rivals and put this away before half.
Louisville 3-1 Ohio State
UCLA (15-1-4) vs Dartmouth (12-1-6)
Breakdown: The Dartmouth Big Green continue to roll. They grabbed their spot in the Sweet Sixteen with an overtime victory at Notre Dame. Andrew Olsen provided the game-winner once again. In the first round, Olsen scored the opening goal which would hold up as the game-winner against Monmouth. In the second round, he had both goals for the Big Green in a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame.
The second goal coming with under a minute left on the clock in the first overtime. A heart-breaking defeat for the Irish, but the lone Cinderella of the 2010 post-season lives on. Dartmouth are the only team with two road victories in the NCAA tourney.
UCLA cruised to a 4-1 victory over Sacramento State in the second round. They were a bit sluggish in the first half and went to the break scoreless. In the second half, UCLA began to pick apart the holes in the Hornets defense. The work of Kelyn Rowe would set up the first two strikes.
On the first goal, Rowe controlled a loose ball at the top of the box, he set up his defender to believe he was going to rip a right footed shot. He then cut the ball across his body as the defender went flying by. His left foot shot was blocked by an on-rushing defender. However, the ball deflected to junior midfielder Evan Raynr’s boot. Raynr made no-doubt about it, and hammered the effort home.
For the second tally, Rowe chipped the defense on a 20 yard lob pass to fellow freshman Reed Williams. The notoriously hard-working Williams ran through both his marks and toed the ball past the Hornets keeper.
The Big Green will present a much more difficult challenge for the Bruins attack. Sacramento State were a young squad, and had some defensive lapses tactically in the second half. Dartmouth have already faced two pretty good attacking teams and only let in one goal. UCLA does have the talent to breakdown the Big Green defense, but it is going to take a sharper effort than the one they showed in the second round.
Defensively for the Bruins, they did a very good job in shutting down a pretty skillful Hornets attack. The lone consolation goal for the visitors did not come until UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo had made a handful of substitutions. Dartmouth attack has a touch more speed to it than UCLA’s previous opponent though. Also, it incorporates the midfield into the attack more frequently. Two elements the Bruins will have to adjust to in this game.
Players to watch:
Kelyn Rowe, Midfield, UCLA
After the game against Sacramento State, Salcedo talked with goal.com about calming Rowe’s nerves in his first post-season game. “We talked to him at halftime about, ‘not always trying to make the perfect play.” The advice seemed to pay off as Rowe exploded in the second half with a new found confidence. Salcedo praised the freshman sensation’s work on the opening goal, “His composure on the first goal was brilliant. The way he brought the ball down in the box to beat his defender.”
The nervous jitters should be gone for the freshman by now. He is going to be marked even more closely by Dartmouth. If he can play to his potential, the Bruins should be playing in December.
Daniel Keat, Midfield, Dartmouth
The weight of the clash again falls on the shoulders of the New Zealand senior midfielder. Keat did not turn up on the scoresheet in their second round game against Notre Dame. However, Keat is the type of player who can still have an influence on the game without his name in the lights.
He has good vision and very refined skills. He runs the center of field for the Big Green. Also, he is the one who creates the greatest mismatches for the opposing defenses. Keat pushes forward into a linking position, in the same way Rowe plays for UCLA. Unless a defensive midfielder tracks (probably Andy Rose in this case), Keat can be lost and given too much time on the ball to pick apart fullbacks.
Both of these teams like their free-flowing play. They like to combine players from all over the field into the attack and create problems for defenses. UCLA found much of their success in the second round after Sacramento State started to show some fatigue in their legs. Dartmouth, while playing an extra game, won’t have that problem. First, they have a week off in between games. Second, they are a veteran-laden team that should be able to handle the Bruins off-the-ball movement.
UCLA’s youthfulness is hard to overlook. The Bruins started four freshman in the second round clash including two in their back four. It will be interesting to see how the duo handle the runs and ball-movement of the Ivy League visitors.
UCLA’s offense is probably too dynamic for Dartmouth to shut out. Dartmouth are too savvy for the Bruins to keep off the score sheet. This one is likely headed to penalty kicks.
UCLA 1-1 Dartmouth. Dartmouth wins in PKs.
#2 Seed Maryland’s Region:
South Carolina (13-2-6) vs Michigan (15-3-4)
Breakdown: This is sort of a dream matchup for the neutral fan. Before we delve into that, let’s examine how South Carolina got here. After winning the Conference USA tournament title, South Carolina was awarded the seventh seed and a first round bye.
In the second round, they faced off against a Duke team playing without leading scorer Ryan Finley. In a game that was plagued with fouls, both goalkeepers made several miraculous saves to keep their teams level through regulation.
By the time the final stats were counted after Bradlee Baladez’s game-winner in the first overtime, the teams had combined for 50 fouls. Added to the eight yellow cards issued, it was a very busy day for referee Bill Dittmar. However, it is South Carolina’s physical nature and disruptive play that will make them a challenge for Michigan.
In the previous round, Michigan played against a Central Florida team that enjoyed the possessive, passing game as much as the Wolverines. This led to a combined twelve fouls in their second round clash. Less than a quarter of the amount of whistles heard in Columbia on Sunday. Not to say Michigan is not capable of the physical play, they are a Big Ten team after all. It is just not the most ideal game to showcase the Wolverines’ talents.
In that fixture against UCF, Wolverines squeaked out a victory in overtime via a free kick goal set up by Hamoody Saad and finished by Latif Alashe. The game marked only the seventh time all season that Soony Saad had failed to score. He had a five game goal scoring streak going into the fixture.
This sets up to be a battle of a physical team who will knock their opposition around against a team with mesmerizing attacking talent. The game will boil down to whoever establishes the style of play in the first five minutes should control the rest of the game. If Michigan can keep their composure against the hard-hitting Gamecocks, they should be in good shape for finding an opening goal to turn the tilt on its head.
Players to watch:
Bradlee Baladez, Midfield, South Carolina
“The ball is slipped through. HE IS ONSIDE. HE IS ON! Baladez vs Belshaw for the game. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd. . . his shot goes wide.” The South Carolina announcers literally took the air out of the stadium with their play-by-play call of Baladez’s breakaway miss in the opening minutes of overtime. The duo sounded dejected after the shot skimmed inches wide of the far-post and harmlessly rattled off the boundary fence.
However, life would be restored to those voices four minutes later. Baladez crashed the box and got on the end of a cross at the near post with a defender sliding at his heels and a goalie diving in front of him.
He responded very well by finishing the chance on the door step. It was an excellent sign for the freshman to rebound after the first breakaway miss with a nifty tap-in.
Baladez is one of those impact freshman who has translated Development Academy success into a brilliant debut campaign.
He is a defenders nightmare. He is big, strong, and quick. Also, he possesses good game-awareness, as illustrated by the run to score the game winning goal.
Michigan have played against some good midfielders/forwards this season. So, they will be prepared for Baladez in a sense. Yet, Baladez has shown an ability to score goals even when the opponent knows he is coming. He leads the Gamecocks with five game-winners on the season.
Soony Saad, Forward, Michigan
Saad is a special talent. It is only once in a very long while that a freshman with his abilities comes to college soccer. The reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year was shutout for the first time in November in the last round against UCF.
South Carolina will be looking at the tape to see how to replicate the defensive effort against the freshman forward. However, there have only been two streaks this season when Saad was shut out of two or more games in a row.
The young man from Dearborn has notched an incredible 18 goals, shattering Michigan records on his to what surely will be multiple freshman of the year awards.
Against South Carolina, it will be intriguing to see how he handles the physical nature of their defense. If he can stay calm and play within the system, it will be difficult for the host to keep the rookie off the score sheet.
Tactically, South Carolina is the most difficult opponent left on this side of the bracket for Michigan. For the Gamecocks, Michigan is a similar team to Duke. Duke didn’t have a playmaker like the Saad brothers or Justin Meram, but they do play a similar style.
That style broke down the Gamecocks defense a couple times, but Duke was unable to get by goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. Maurer, listed at 6’2, used every inch of his frame to block a couple close-range efforts by the Blue Devils.
Michigan are more efficient with their chances. They haven’t been shut out in over two months. And boast a top ten scoring offense in the nation to back-up that claim. So this game may come down to South Carolina being able to exchange blows with the Wolverine attack.
The Gamecocks have a few weapons beyond Baladez who could open up the Wolverine back-line. However, they will be more successful with route one style than trying to knock it against Michigan.
As mentioned earlier, the first five minutes will really be the tell-tale sign of this game. Anticipate the Wolverines to win those first five minutes, and set the tone with an early goal. South Carolina won’t have the legs to chase the game, but will capitalize on a defensive mistake by the Blue. Another overtime for both teams, go with the fitter side.
Michigan 2-1 South Carolina.
Maryland (18-1-2) vs Penn State (14-1-7)
Breakdown: Not surprisingly, Maryland cruised to the third round with a commanding victory over Penn in the second round. The Terps have been cruising since September 24, their last loss. They are in the midst of a 14 game winning streak. During that span, they have let in only four goals. More impressive, they have scored 40 goals during this streak.
Not once has a game gone to overtime. And only three times have they won by less than two goals. Equally as astounding is more than half of those games have been played against NCAA tournament teams.
Penn State’s streak into the post-season is not nearly as impressive. They finished as runner-up in the Big Ten tournament, losing to Michigan in the final. They earned a first round bye as the 15 seed and knocked off Old Dominion in the second round behind a hat trick from junior striker Corey Hertzog.
This is the first time Penn State have been to the third round since 2005. More recent historically is the loss last season to Maryland in the second round at Happy Valley. Revenge is on the mind of the Nittany Lions as they want to return the favor and end Maryland’s streak and season on their home turf.
Players to watch:
Ethan White, Defense, Maryland
White will be given the task of keeping an eye on Penn State’s leading striker, Corey Hertzog. White may not draw the acclaim that teammates Matt Kassel or Zac MacMath do, but he is a professional prospect with MLS scouts drooling of the possibilities.
The Maryland track record of turning players into MLS stars is well versed, and White is likely one of the next few through that pipeline to getting commissioner Don Garber to call his name. In this game, White will need to use his speed and size to keep Hertzog from getting in alone against MacMath.
Matheus Braga, Midfield, Penn State
Maryland’s success has come because of their dominance in the midfield. They have been able to take the game away from their opponent thanks to the play of their midfielders. Braga, a senior from Brazil, is capable of giving that midfield some trouble. He has good ball control and vision.
He has been able to seek out Hertzog in traffic to give some teeth to the Nittany Lion attack. Braga will be key to Penn State staying in this game. If he can control the play from the midfield and link with Hertzog, Penn State will be a threat on the counter-attack. It may be enough to keep Penn State alive against all odds in College Park.
Revenge is a very powerful motivator and it will be on the minds for most of the Penn State players. However, they don’t have a good enough defense to hold off the Maryland onslaught. The Terps are just too strong right now for many teams to be able to slow down.
It will be up to Hertzog and Braga to keep Penn State fighting till the final whistle. Maryland have quite a few weapons on defense; so, it is going to take a Herculean effort from the duo to net a few goals and give the Nittany Lions a chance.
Maryland 3-0 Penn State
J.R. Eskilson is the youth soccer editor of Goal.com. Follow him on Twitter @NCAAsoccerBecome a fan of Goal.com USA's Facebook fan page for all the latest news and insight into everything related to the beautiful game