Virginia and UCLA beat UMBC and Providence respectively to book their places in Sunday’s final, which kicks off at noon in Cary, North Carolina.
Unseeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s dream trip to the College Cup did not last long as they fell to Virginia in the first semifinal.
UMBC, playing in their fifth consecutive road game in the National Championship tournament, lost 1-0 to a Cavaliers team who were taking part in their 36th tournament- compared to just the fifth for UMBC.
Virginia defeated UMBC in the College Cup semis. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)
#16 Virginia’s winning goal came early as Pablo Aguilar took advantage of a defensive mistake to tee up Darius Madison in the fifth minute.
UMBC’s Marquez Fernandez took control of a pass in the center of defense, but was robbed of the ball by Aguilar. The Virginia midfielder had the quick composure to pass the ball out right to Madison, who took a touch before shooting low across the goal past Retriever goalkeeper Billy Heavner.
The goal was the first conceded by UMBC in the National Championship tournament having shutout Wake Forest, #4 Maryland, #13 Louisville, and #12 Xavier en route to the semifinals.
They nearly conceded a second minutes later as a low cross across the face of goal went untouched, with Madison nearly getting a foot on the ball.
The Cavaliers continued to dominate the early proceedings and should have been awarded a penalty kick, but Fernandez’s foul on Jake Rozhansky was ignored by the referee.
UMBC finally had a chance worth mentioning twenty minutes in when a corner kick was headed narrowly over by Oumar Ballo from two yards out.
Ballo, along with Virginia midfielder Eric Bird, received invitations on Thursday to the 2015 MLS Player Combine held in mid-January in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
UMBC maintained possession well but they could not convert it into quality chances and headed into the break down by one.
UMBC took a similar approach in the second half, but Virginia nearly took advantage of a counter attack six minutes in.
UMBC came close to equalising. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)
Scott Thomsen stole the ball of a UMBC attacker, played a beautiful, raking pass to Ryan Zinkhan, who put a cross on to the head of Madison. He could not double Virginia’s lead though as he glanced the header wide.
Kay Banjo nearly equalized for the Retrievers with 18 minutes remaining, but his powerful shot from a tight angle went into the side netting.
A second chance came a few minutes later when Michael Scott was put clean through, but Virginia goalkeeper Calle Brown did well to rush off his line and smother the chance.
UMBC could not muster up another meaningful attack and were eliminated thanks to the early Madison goal.
Virginia’s journey in search for a seventh national title lives on, as they will take on UCLA who beat Providence in an overtime thriller for the second semifinal Friday night.
#2 UCLA, making their 13th appearance in the College Cup, were favorites heading into the matchup versus Providence, who were making their maiden appearance in the Final Four.
It took awhile for the teams to find a rhythm as they exchanged possession throughout the first quarter-hour. The first real chance did not come until the 13th minute, all courtesy of the skill of Providence’s Fabio Machado, another player invited to the MLS Combine.
The forward, whose skills and touch were displayed throughout the game, controlled a pass on the end line and proceeded to pull the back and around a UCLA defender. Machado played a dangerous cross across the face of goal, which was cleared narrowly over the bar by a defender.
Twenty minutes in and was UCLA on the front foot. Bruins forward Abu Danladi intercepted a ball and attacked a lone Providence defender with pace, cutting to his right side before goalkeeper Keasel Broome’s slide tackle spoiled the chance to put UCLA ahead.
The Bruins had another chance in the 39th minute, which came from the right foot of defender Grady Howe. A free kick was swung into the box and was cleared only as far as Howe at the top of the box, who volleyed it on goal, but was saved by goalkeeper Broome.
UCLA took advantage of the next chance in the 43rd minute, as Danladi and Larry Ndjock combined to send the Bruins up a goal at the break.
Danladi received the ball on the right wing, dribbled up and sent Ndjock through. Broome did well to save the initial effort from an angle, but could do nothing on the rebound as Ndjock stuck with the play and finished the chance.
Providence leveled the match in 65th minute with their first shot on goal. It was orchestrated by Phil Towler, who found Thomas Ballenthin wide on the left, who then put in a perfect cross where Mac Steeves rose highest to head it in.
Ballenthin’s dangerous crosses put Providence ahead nine minutes later as another cross from the left was headed on to the back post, where it found Steeves. The forward displayed perfect technique to volley the ball with his right past goalkeeper Earl Edwards, Jr.
UCLA’s Earl Edwards Jr. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)
UCLA had come from behind in the last round to tie North Carolina 3-3 before winning on penalties, and they proceeded to do the same as Larry Ndjock headed in Danladi’s deflected shot to level the score at two-a-piece with ten minutes remaining.
The braces from Ndjock and Steeves forced overtime, the first time Providence has played overtime in this tournament, which is golden goal format.
UCLA had a penalty claim four minutes in when Friar defender Brandon Adler went through Leo Stolz, but replays showed the defender got a piece of the ball before making contact with the MAC Hermann Trophy finalist.
A corner kick in the second period of overtime brought the golden goal, but it was the most unfortunate way to bow out of the tournament- an own goal.
Brandon Adler, who got was lucky not to concede the penalty earlier in overtime, was the unlucky man as he deflected a shot that heading wide past his own goalkeeper.
UCLA marches on to the final to try and claim their fifth national title, while Providence goes home wondering what might have been had they held on to their lead with nine minutes left.
The Cavaliers and Bruins kick off on Sunday at noon to determine who will be the 2015 National Champions in a rematch of the 1997 final, which UCLA won 2-0.
UCLA seniors Leo Stolz, Earl Edwards Jr., Aaron Simmons, and Andrew Tusaazemajja have all been invited to the MLS Combine and will look to end their collegiate careers with the national title with Eric Bird, Matt and Calle Brown, and Ryan Zinkhan trying to do the same.
If the final is anything like any of the 46 games so far in this National Championship tournament, we should be in for a treat.