U17′s beat Brazil to Clinch Tournament
U17′s beat Brazil to Clinch Tournament avatar

With Jurgen Klinsmann looking on, the United States U17 team defeated Brazil 4-1 in an ill tempered match to win the week long Nike International Tournament in Lakewood Ranch, Florida on Friday afternoon.

The Americans finished the event with a 2-1-0 record, losing 2-1 to Portugal in Monday’s opener, then going on to batter England 5-1, before clinching the event with yesterday’s victory over Brazil.

The young Yanks were first on the board through the dynamic Haji Wright in the eighth minute. Wright received a pass from fullback Matthew Olosunde near midfield, leaving Brazilian defenders in his wake and banging in the first of his two goals versus the Selecao.

U.S. goalkeeper Kevin Silva had been tested prior to Wright’s breakthrough and had come up big, but he lost a foot race with Marcelo de Souza in the 16th minute, leaving de Souza the simple task of shooting into an empty net for the equalizer.

Christian Pulisic was voted the tournament's MVP. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Christian Pulisic was voted the tournament’s MVP. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The tie didn’t last long, just six minutes, in fact. Joe Gallardo put the Yanks back on top , scoring his fourth goal of the tournament on an assist from MVP Christian Pulisic.

Tempers had been simmering from the opening whistle, and they finally boiled over in the 40th minute when Brazil’s Evander da Silva took out Olosunde with a late tackle, earning a straight red.

Despite being a man down for the remaining 50 minutes, Brazil continued to attack, leaving gaps for the U.S. to exploit. Gallardo did exactly that in the 56th minute, finding tournament Christian Pulisic wide open in front of the Brazil goal to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead.

Brazil would go down to nine men in the 86th minute, but by then Wright had added his fifth goal of the week, good for the tourney’s Golden Boot, and the U.S. were on the way to a second Nike International Championship title in three years.

The game ended in odd fashion with the U.S. knocking the ball around as Brazil watched, the two sides allowing the clock to wind down after order had been restored in the aftermath of that late Brazil ejection.

The U.S. had a rocky start but impressed in the end, (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The U.S. had a rocky start but impressed in the end, (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The week was a big success for coach Richie Williams and his young troops, and beating Brazil with Jurgen Klinsmann in attendance shouldn’t be underestimated. Klinsmann’s brand new contract extension carries the additional title of Technical Director and it runs through the next World Cup, Russia 2018, leaving coaches and players alike in no doubt as to who they need to impress to further their national team ambitions.

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Maryland Tops Virginia in College Cup Semis
Maryland Tops Virginia in College Cup Semis avatar

Chester, Pa. – Maryland’s two big names, Patrick Mullins and Zach Steffan, rose to the occasion on Friday night to propel the Terrapins to a 2-0 victory at PPL Park, and onto Sunday’s National Championship match against Notre Dame at the same venue.

Mullins struck for a goal in each half, both times controlling a long pass and exploiting a gap between the Virginia center backs to punish Virginia with superb finishes. The 2013 Hermann Trophy winner was quick to praise his teammates. ” Both brilliant balls,” the striker said. “Great vision from both (Mikias Eticha) and Tsubasa (Endoh) on the goals. As a forward all you can do is make hard runs and hope the ball gets there.” “I got two great services,” Mullins said, “and I made sure to put them away.”

Zach Steffen made 5 Saves for Maryland to Keep Virginia at bay. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Zach Steffen made 5 Saves for Maryland to Keep Virginia at bay. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Steffan’s moment came with time running out and Maryland clinging to a one goal lead over a rampant Virginia. Overtime seemed to be on the cards between these two great rivals, but Steffan would have none of it. Somehow the keeper stretched to full length to get a strong hand on substitute Brian James’ goal bound rocket, effectively sealing Maryland’s place in the final.

Hometown hero Steffan admitted that, “having all of my friends and family come out to the game was special.” “Living 40 minutes away,” Steffan went on, “and having played here and coming to a lot of Union games, it was special.”

Maryland had taken the early lead when a picture perfect pass from Mikias Eticha split the Virginia defense and found Mullin. Mullin popped the ball over Calle Brown in the Virginia net with a classy shot with the outside of his left foot for the 11th minute goal.

Virginia were battling Maryland and winning their fair share of possession, but the Terps never looked like conceding in the first half. Defensive midfielder Dan Metzger was leading Maryland’s defensive effort, but Virginia came flying out of the traps after the break.

Maryland's Mulllins (15)celebrates scoring with his teammates. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Maryland’s Mulllins (15)celebrates scoring with his teammates. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Maryland were getting great, vocal support from their fans, singing, chanting and creating a great atmosphere for this College Cup semifinal. The fans were surely trying to will their boys to go at least one step further than last year, when Maryland went out in heartbreaking fashion, losing to Georgetown on penalty kicks after battling to a 4-4 tie in regulation.

Virginia were dominating the ball in the second half, and that possession finally bore fruit when Todd Wharton calmly slotted a penalty kick past Steffans to cut the lead in half, to 2-1 with almost 77 minutes gone in the game.

Virginia earned that penalty when Dan Metzger took Marcus Salandy-Defour down with a desperation tackle on Steffan’s doorstep.

Maryland were just about hanging on for most of the second half, and just how the Terrapins managed to keep Darius Madison off the scoresheet was more than a bit of a mystery.

Virginia kept pressing but unfortunately could not get the equalizer. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Virginia kept pressing but unfortunately could not get the equalizer. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

With the Virginia midfielders pushing up, Madison was popping up all over the place, wide right, wide left, running through the middle. Maryland couldn’t find him, couldn’t catch him and were lucky to keep him from scoring. Madison actually beat Steffan just five minutes into the half with a powerful shot, only to see his shot rebound straight into the U.S. U20 goalkeepers hands.

This is the last time these two schools will play as ACC rivals with Maryland moving on next season. But the Terrapins still have one more game to play as members of the dominant conference in the nation, when they take on Notre Dame in an all Atlantic Coast Conference National Championship game on Sunday afternoon.

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Notre Dame Beat New Mexico to Make First Final
Notre Dame Beat New Mexico to Make First Final avatar

Chester, Pa. – Playing In their first College Cup Notre Dame proved to be well up to occasion, beating New Mexico 2-0, to ensure an all ACC final on Sunday.

Red hot goal scoring midfielder Patrick Hodan continued his prolific ways, scoring twice tonight, that’s at least one a game in the past six games for Hodan.

Patrick Hodan celebrates his game winning goal. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Patrick Hodan  celebrates his game winning goal. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Hodan was hardly alone, he had a pretty good wingman in Hermann Trophy candidate Harrison Shipp, who brilliantly set up Hodan for the opener in the game’s seventh minute. Shipp said after the game, “ the guy tried to foul me, he grabbed me from behind and I’m pretty sure they thought the ref was going to call a foul, so the guy kind of froze.”

It was in those little moments that Notre Dame outperformed New Mexico and that is something that will haunt the Lobos when they think back on this game. New Mexico coach Jeremy Fishbein said that Notre Dame, “played quite well.” But the Lobos coach was disappointed in how his team finished their season, saying, “it’s a tough way to go (out).” “I wish I could say we were at our best today,”the coach continued, “I think we were all kind of disappointed with our performance.” Fishbein credited Notre Dame but he concluded, “I just didn’t think we had it today, and it was unfortunate that it came in the national semifinals.”

Shipp was excellent all game, the Chicago Fire property was inventive and dangerous throughout, and it looks like the Fire have gotten themselves a good one.

Harrison Shipp had an outstanding game. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Harrison Shipp had an outstanding game. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

The Irish were on top most of the night, with their attack minded midfield controlling the tempo and enjoying plenty of space. Hodan, and Evan Panken were to the fore, but Connor Kletkota and Nick Besler clogged up the middle, while keeping the ball moving into Shipp and power forward Vince Cicciarelli.

New Mexico’s attack too often resorted to lobbing high balls into the Notre Dame box, balls that Notre Dame center backs Andrew O’Malley and Grant Van De Casteele were only too happy to clear to safety.

Playing with a 2- 0 lead Notre Dame retreated into a shell allowing the Lobos to dominate the closing stages of the match. Christopher Wehan, Michael Calderon and James Rogers led the New Mexico charge, but Irish keeper Patrick Wall was never unduly troubled, and soon Notre Dame were on their way to Sunday’s National Championship game, or “dancing in December,” as coach Bobby Clarke put it afterwards.

One interested on looker was New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps, and with two selections in next month’s MLS SuperDraft, where else would he be.

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EPL Week 16 – Concussion, Tigers, and much more
EPL Week 16 – Concussion, Tigers, and much more avatar

After a successful week in Europe, England’s representatives return home to focus their attentions on domestic matters. Week 16 has some tasty games to look forward to with Man City vs. Arsenal and Tottenham vs. Liverpool are the pick of the bunch.

Some of the EPL’s best goals from November 2013



FA to consult fans over Hull name change

The Football Association will consult with Hull City fans when considering the proposal to change the club’s name.

On Wednesday, City owner Assem Allam formally applied to the FA to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers.

“A consultation process will be undertaken with various stakeholders including supporter groups,” the FA said in a statement.

A large group of Hull City fans are against the name change and are urging the FA to protect their heritage and tradition.

The City Till We Die campaign group said it was confident the FA “would make the right decision”.

Hull Chairman Assem Allam did not do himself any justice by making such harsh comments. (Getty Images)

Hull Chairman Assem Allam did not do himself any justice by making such harsh comments. (Getty Images)

Hull owner Allam caused controversy recently suggesting those City fans who chanted “City Till I Die” during games could “die when they want”, and that those who unfurled banners were “hooligans” who distracted the players.

The City Till We Die group claims no research or consultation has taken place with fans despite Allam giving assurances that no name change would proceed without any.

The group has received messages of support from fans of many other clubs from home and abroad and will hold a public meeting before their televised game against Stoke City on Saturday.

Supporters Direct, which represents 180 fan trusts across Europe, said the FA should introduce mandatory rules for clubs to consult supporters on changes in name, kit color or ground, as part of a mandatory democratic process.

In a statement, Supporters Direct said: “The very identity of football clubs, and their fans and communities, is simply too important to be entrusted to temporary owners, who are generally more interested in what they can take out of a club rather than what they can put back in, and whose decision-making does not take account of the wider interests of those who count their loyalty in tens of years and generations.”


Robin van Persie out for a month

Manchester United forward Robin van Persie will be out of action for a month with a thigh strain.

The Dutchman, 30, only played the last thirty minutes in the 1-0 over Shakhtar Donetsk, but injured himself while taking the corner that led to Phil Jones’ goal.

It’s unfortunate,” said boss David Moyes. “Our record is good with Wayne Rooney and Robin in the team. We’ve not had them for quite a period recently.”

Van Persie being out injured will be a huge lose for Man Utd.Getty Images)

Van Persie being out injured will be a huge lose for Man Utd.Getty Images)

Van Persie endured many disrupted campaigns during his time at Arsenal, but seemed to have overcome his injury troubles with three years of relatively injury-free soccer.

Despite struggling for fitness, Van Persie has managed to score seven goals in 11 league appearances this term.

Moyes added: “Marouane Fellaini has a bit of a back injury. Michael Carrick is missing and Robin is going to miss four weeks with a thigh strain. That is a big blow to us.”

Van Persie came to Old Trafford from Arsenal for $36m in 2012 and scored 26 goals last season as United claimed the Premier League title. 


Ban kids from heading urges campaign group

A leading campaigner on head injuries in sport has called for a ban on children heading the ball when playing soccer.

Chris Nowinski, a former professional wrestler and co-founder of Sports Legacy Institute, believes children should be protected from the dangers inherent in certain physical sports.

Nowinski told BBC Radio 5 live: “In football [soccer], introduce heading at a later age.”

“We can still play those games without contact but who thinks it’s a good idea to hit a 10-year-old in the head 200 or 300 times a season?”

Lots of highlight has been put on concussion and the protection that is needed. (Getty Images)

Lots of highlight has been put on concussion and the protection that is needed. (Getty Images)

Nowinski suffered from concussion because of regular blows to the head when playing college American football, but due to a lack of understanding about his symptoms, he continued to wrestle and work out for five weeks while symptomatic. He developed post-concussion syndrome and was forced to retire.

Following his retirement, Nowinski co-founded the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit organisation dedicated to studying sports concussion through education, policy, and research.

He said: “A new study came out in the US two days ago showing repetitive brain trauma is still causing brain damage.

“Based on all this research, we know we’re giving some of those kids a chance of brain damage because we choose to introduce contact so young.”

However, Headway spokesman Luke Griggs said that banning children from heading in football was not the answer.

Griggs told BBC Sport: “For us, the key is not being as drastic as to ban children from contact sport. It’s more about improving awareness among coaches, referees and, importantly, parents. A minor injury can have consequences so it’s about dealing with them immediately, so we need to raise awareness.

“There is limited research which shows the danger of heading and it will need more research before we contemplate supporting that. There is merit in what Chris says, but banning kids is not the way forward. It’s about awareness.”

The Football Association declined to comment on the matter. In the UK, children tend to play with size three balls until Under 15 level, at which time size five balls are introduced.



Week 16

My Predictions

Man City v Arsenal 2-1
Cardiff v West Brom 1-2
Chelsea v Crystal Palace 3-0
Everton v Fulham 1-1
Newcastle v Southampton 2-1
West Ham v Sunderland 1-1
Hull City v Stoke City 1-1
Aston Villa v Man Utd 1-2
Norwich v Swansea 1-2
Tottenham v Liverpool 2-2



Man City vs. Arsenal

Week 16 kicks-off with dazzler a of a game as league leader’s Arsenal head up to Manchester to face Man City who are the only team in all of England’s professional divisions to boast a 100% record on their home turf.

Last season’s runners-up City have struggled playing away this season, but have been imperious at home winning all seven of their EPL games this season and scoring 29 goals in the process—which is the most by a top-flight team in their opening seven matches since Tottenham in 1962-63 (also 29). They drew 1-1 away to Southampton in their last EPL game, but then beat European champions Bayern Munich 3-2 midweek in the Champions League, so will be brimming with confidence ahead of Saturday’s game.

Aguero and Co are a formidable force at home.(Getty Images)

Aguero and Co are a formidable force at home.(Getty Images)

Their opponents on Saturday have not had the best of weeks, the Gunners were held 1-1 to Everton in their last EPL game and then just managed to qualify for the Champions League second round after losing 2-0 to Napoli in Italy.

Despite being the best team EPL so far this season, many pundits have questioned their championship pedigree, and their credentials will be severely tested in the next couple of weeks as the face City, then West Ham away, before hosting Chelsea on the 23 December. If Arsenal can come out of those games still top of the table, then I think people will really have to start taking them seriously.

Manchester City are expected to recall Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, who were all rested during the 3-2 win over Bayern Munich.

Arsenal will assess defender Bacary Sagna, who is nursing a hamstring problem. Lukas Podolski is fit after three months out with a hamstring injury but is unlikely to feature due to a lack of fitness.

Ozil has seemed to rejuvenate Arsenal and will be hoping he can take something from this game. (Getty Images)

Ozil has seemed to rejuvenate Arsenal and will be hoping he can take something from this game. (Getty Images)

This game is unquestionably Arsenal’s biggest this season and if they can avoid defeat I think they will be happy. City currently sit six points behind Arsenal so cannot really afford to lose this one, but with the form they are in I doubt they will be worrying about losing.

Arsenal are top of the table, but I think they will lose this game as City seem unbeatable at the Etihad at the moment—in fact, I think they could win ever game at home this season, which would be an incredible feat.

Prediction: 2-1


Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace

Chelsea simply cannot lose this game, while Crystal Palace have nothing to lose.

The Blues surprizingly lost 3-2 away to Stoke last week and after that loss Chelsea boss Mourinho said his team was in trouble. The west Londoners currently sit third in the table and could be close to within a point of leaders Arsenal with a win against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Eagles currently sit third from bottom in the EPL languishing in the relegation zone, however, Palace are inform having won three of their last four EPL games since the appointment of coach Tony Pulis.

Chelsea are an unpredictable team - you never know what you are going to get. (Getty Images)

Chelsea are an unpredictable team – you never know what you are going to get. (Getty Images)

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill has a thigh problem and missing out. While Cesar Azpilicueta looks set to continue at left back ahead of Ashley Cole.

Crystal Palace defender Dean Moxey is doubtful with a hamstring injury suffered against Cardiff, though winger Yannick Bolasie is available following suspension.

Palace are on a good run with three wins in their last four, but they have only taken two points from their eight previous Premier League meetings against Chelsea and are winless in 11 attempts in the league since a 2-1 home victory in August 1990.

Prediction: 3-0



Aston Villa vs. Man United

Both these sides lost last week and will be looking to bounce back with a good result and performance in week 16.

Aston Villa were defeated 2-0 away to Fulham, but will feel a tad hard done by, especially as the second goal came via a controversial penalty decision. The Villains have been hit and miss this season, winning games they were expected to lose and losing ones they were expected to win.

Villa will be hoping that Benteke (L). (Getty Images)

Villa will be hoping that Benteke (L) will cause United trouble. (Getty Images)

They carry a real threat going forward with the likes of Benteke and Agbongalhor, but have struggled defensively and seem to give the opposing side too many opportunities, which could spell trouble as they face Manchester United on Sunday.

But the champions have really struggled under new boss David Moyes, and have only picked up two points out of a possible twelve. The Reds Devils might complain about tough fixtures and injuries, but those excuses mask the real problem, which is that their central midfielders are not good enough to compete at the top end of the table.

Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph serves a one-match ban for accumulating five bookings this season. Ron Vlaar is likely to miss out with a calf injury, while Libor Kozak and Antonio Luna both remain doubts

Manchester United woes continue as forward Robin van Persie has been ruled out for a month with a thigh injury, though Wayne Rooney returns after missing out last week’s defeat through suspension. Meanwhile, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick have back and achilles injuries respectively and are unavailable.

Rooney has been a cut above the rest of his teammates this season. (Getty Images)

Rooney has been a cut above the rest of his teammates this season. (Getty Images)

United have a terrific record against Villa, losing only one in their last 35 league games against the Midlanders. However, all of those games were overseen by a certain Alex Ferguson and since his retirement United have looked extremely vulnerable. Nevertheless, I’ll back United to just edge this one.

Prediction: 1-2


Tottenham vs. Liverpool

Week 16 could be in for a blockbuster finish as sixth placed Tottenham host second placed Liverpool.

Tottenham have failed to find their main target man.(Getty Images)

Tottenham have failed to find their main target man.(Getty Images)

Tottenham have been criticized recently, especially after they lost 6-0 away to City, as they have failed to reach the high-expectations set by spending heavily during the close season—The north Londoners spent close to $174m during the summer. However, it was always going to take a while for all the new players to gel and assimilate, and since that heavy loss they have won comfortably and played well.

Liverpool are enjoying their best start to a season for a few years—They are 11 points and 15 goals better off than at the same stage of last season. The Reds currently sit four points off leaders Arsenal and boast arguably the best player in the EPL and the world right now in Luis Suarez—the Uruguayan has scored 14 goals in only 10 EPL games.

Spurs will assess the fitness of Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen, who returned from injury lay-offs on Thursday against Anzhi Makhachkala.

Vlad Chiriches (knee) and Younes Kaboul (thigh) are both doubts, and Jan Vertonghen is definitely out with an ankle injury.

Liverpool have looked dangerous without S (Getty Images)

Liverpool have looked dangerous and seem to be gelling (Getty Images)

Liverpool are boosted by the return of Daniel Agger, who returns after missing the win over West Ham because of illness, but Steven Gerrard joins Daniel Sturridge on the treatment table and will not feature, though Jordan Henderson has overcome a badly bruised ankle.

Tottenham have won their last six games against Liverpool at White Hart Lane— four of those defeats have been by a 2-1 scoreline—suggesting Spurs should win this one. However, Liverpool are much improved this season and carry a serious threat with the ever dangerous Luis Suarez, but the loss of captain Gerrard might hamper their chances of getting anything from this game.

Prediction: 2-2










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Houston Dash Join NWSL for 2014 Season
Houston Dash Join NWSL for 2014 Season avatar

MLS Franchise Houston Dynamo announced Thursday the addition of Houston Dash- the 9th team to join the NWSL league for the 2014 season.

This monumental decision is a positive affirmation for the future of the NWSL in showcasing some of the most talented women soccer players in a stable competitive league.

With the new team come a few changes to the 2014 schedule. The season will expand from 22 matches (11 home/11 away) to 24 matches (12 home/12 away) played from April to August.  The final schedule will not be revealed until the end of January.

An expansion draft will take place to add 18- 20 players to the team’s roster- the first expansion team of the league. Besides searching for players, the hunt is on for a head coach as well. The Houston Dash will compete at BVA Compass Stadium with uniforms to be unveiled at a later date.

“We’re proud and excited to welcome the Houston Dash to the NWSL as the first expansion team in league history,” NWSL executive director Cheryl Bailey told reporters. “The creation of the Dash will mean enhanced opportunities for female soccer players at the professional level as well as the chance for fans from another part of the country to watch and interact with some of the world’s most talented players. We are thrilled at being able to add an organization as strong as the Houston Dynamo as we work towards continuing to build a sustainable league.”

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Men’s College Cup Final Four
Men’s College Cup Final Four avatar

The Men’s College Cup comes to PPL Park in Philadelphia tomorrow when Notre Dame and New Mexico face off at 5:00 pm followed by Maryland versus Virginia in the nightcap.

Playing in their first ever College Cup, Notre Dame enter the weekend as the nominal favorites, thanks to their 15-1-6 record. But even after scoring 10 goals in three games, the high scoring Fighting Irish are well aware that they won’t have it easy against the defense minded Lobos.

Notre Dame enter their first College Cup as favorites. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Notre Dame enter their first College Cup as favorites. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

At Thursday afternoon’s walk through, Notre Dame’s Hermann Trophy finalist Harrison Shipp told GotSoccer that New Mexico,”have had a pretty good defense so far in the tournament, they haven’t given up a goal.” “Luckily,” said Shipp, “we’ve done a pretty good job of that (scoring goals) in the last three games.”

As the only non ACC team to make to college soccer’s Final Four, the Lobos are some dangerous gate crashers. Last week’s quarterfinal win at Washington, the tournament’s number two seed, showed New Mexico’s character, as they fought through the home team, as well as the icy conditions.

Sophomore Ben McKendry, who scored the all important goal against Washington, doesn’t see his team as giant killers. “No, not really,” McKendry told GotSoccer on Thursday, “I think we’re pretty confident that we’re a strong team ourselves.”

While the first game features two teams not all that familiar with each other, Maryland and Virginia know each other all too well. Friday’s game will be the third time these storied programs have battled this season, and the results could not have been closer.

The teams tied 3-3 in the regular season and Maryland came out with a 1-0 win in the ACC final. The Terrapins needed a late own goal from Virginia to secure the win, leaving the Cavaliers itching for the re-match.

Cavs attacker Ryan Zinkhan summed up Virginia’s mood, telling GotSoccer, “we felt like we got it stolen away from us in the ACC Championship, so we’re really excited to get another shot at them.”

Maryland's Patrick Mullins (R) has been outstanding for his team. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Maryland’s Patrick Mullins (R) has been outstanding for his team. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Maryland star Patrick Mullins sounded ready, telling GotSoccer, “we’ve had some really memorable games with them, and obviously over the year’s it has been a very intense rivalry.” The defending Hermann Trophy winner added, “we feel we know them well and I’m sure they feel the same way about us.” Mullins hit the nail on the head when he concluded, “I think it makes up for a great tomorrow night.”

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U.S. MNT Goals Can’t Change Despite Tough Draw
U.S. MNT Goals Can’t Change Despite Tough Draw avatar

Since the day in July 2011 that United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati announced Jurgen Klinsmann as the new U.S. MNT coach, it has all been about the World Cup.

Klinsmann's (Getty Images)

Klinsmann was definitely Gulati’s first choice.(Getty Images)

Gulati had jettisoned Bob Bradley to bring in Klinsmann, and it was always the former German greats brief to bring the U.S. national team somewhere new, somewhere further. A difficult Word Cup draw does nothing to change that.

The Americans have long since made qualifying for the world’s quadrennial celebration of the beautiful game a matter of routine. A succession of coaches had guided the U.S. to six consecutive World Cups, before Gulati finally completed his four year quest and landed Klinsmann.

Coach Bob Ganlser changed the pathway of U.S. Soccer. (Getty Images)

Coach Bob Ganlser changed the pathway of U.S. Soccer. (Getty Images)

Bob Gansler ended a 50 year World Cup drought for the U.S. in 1990, qualifying with his team of recent college grads and lower league professionals. In 1994 the U.S. and Bora Milutinovic received an automatic bid as host, but the well traveled coach advanced the U.S. out of the group stages, where the Yanks went out heroically 1-0, to eventual Champions Brazil. And, although Steve Sampson may have set the program back with a three losses and out effort in France in 1998, he qualified. Bruce Arena had a great World Cup in 2002, and then a bad one in 2006, and Bob Bradley won his group in 2010.

Klinsmann was hired in 2011 with an almost unfathomably bigger name and reputation than any of them. More was promised, more is expected. Topping the qualifying group, winning the Gold Cup, while all good, has all been done before, by those other, less glamorous U.S. coaches.

The tie with Mexico at the Aztecs was the turning point. (John Todd/Isi Photos)

The tie with Mexico at the Aztecs was the turning point. (John Todd/Isi Photos)

Beating Mexico in Mexico, winning in Italy, setting records for wins in a year, Klinsmann can claim those accomplishments. But the success of Klinsmann’s tenure with the U.S. MNT still comes down to what his team does at this World Cup. No one knows or cares where the U.S. finished in 2002 qualification, third by the way. But they sure remember that the U.S. made it to the quarterfinals in South Korea/Japan.

Now the ping pong balls have been dispersed and the U.S. will have to deal with it. Germany, Portugal, and the old nemesis Ghana. Klinsmann, as expected, shrugged it off, the opposition, the travel, the only thing Klinsmann admitted concern for was playing in the Amazon, an odd place to build a stadium, when you think of it.

Ronaldo wills surely be one of the most dangerous players in the tournament.(Getty Images)

Ronaldo wills surely be one of the most dangerous players in the tournament.(Getty Images)

January camp, a couple of friendlies, then pick the team. Pick a team to contend with Portugal and Ronaldo. Portugal have become overly dependent on Ronaldo, but who wouldn’t. So, slow Ronaldo becomes the plan, but can DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans honestly be expected to handle him. Converted midfielders both, but then again which natural fullbacks in the U.S. pool would be up to that task.

The U.S. MNT went toe to toe with Klinsmann’s native Germany last June, beating a youthful German side 4-3. Will that victory instill confidence in the Americans when they face Die Mannschaft in their final group game on June 26?

The U.S. open with Ghana, the country that has knocked the U.S. out of the past two World Cups. Ghana can’t send the U.S. packing this time, but if the Germany game is going to mean anything to the U.S., a victory over Ghana may be imperative.

The U.S. will split the January camp this year between California and Sao Paolo, the U.S. base camp in Brazil. Camp begins at the StubHub Center in Carson, California on January 6 and moves on to Brazil on the 12th.

I had a chance to ask the U.S. coach a question via e-mail on the day of the World Cup draw.

With most European based players unavailable for the January camp, my question for Klinsmann was, what he was looking to accomplish with this camp?

“It’s definitely an opportunity to test out the infrastructure in Sao Paolo, and get a feel for Brazil. It’s an introduction for the players. From a players perspective, we will be taking it very seriously and train similar to ways we will leading into the World Cup. We want to get them ready so they know what to expect coming into camp in May.”

Klinsmann will . (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Klinsmann will be using the January camp as a testing ground for the World Cup . (ISI Photos/John Todd)

The January camp closes with a game against fellow World Cup Qualifiers, the Korea Republic on February 1. U.S. Soccer is attempting to arrange another match or two before the Cup.

And, that is it. Group of Death or not, the goal remains the same as it was when Jurgen Klinsmann was hired to replace Bob Bradley. Getting to the World Cup was never the goal, bring the U.S. somewhere new, somewhere further, that’s the goal.

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Ballon d’Or Finalists Named
Ballon d’Or Finalists Named avatar

FIFA announced the finalists for the Ballon d’Or for their best male and female players of the year, along with the finalists for Coach of the Year, best goal and the shortlist at the forward position, for the FIFA Top 11.

The 3 most obvious players for in the men's game were selected. (Getty images)

The 3 most obvious players in the men’s game were selected. (Getty images)

The final three for the Male Player of the Year were, as expected, Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Franck Ribery (France). Since the award was merged with the FIFA Player of the Year Award in 2010 Lionel Messi has been the only winner of the Ballon d’Or.

This seems like it could be Ronaldo's year - he would certainly be a deserved winner. (Getty Images)

This seems like it could be Ronaldo’s year – he would certainly be a deserved winner. (Getty Images)

This year may be the year that changes. The Barcelona legend has been perceived to be off of his game this year, as some niggling injuries have slowed the Argentinian somewhat. There seems to be a growing movement to back Ribery for the honor, and his work in leading France into the World Cup and Bayern Munich to Champions League glory certainly merits consideration.

It seems impossible however, to deny Ronaldo his day in the spotlight this time around. His performance in dragging Portugal into the World Cup, almost single handedly it seemed, while maintaining his usual high standards for Real Madrid makes this Ronaldo’s year. Right?

Few will forget Ronaldo’s expression of disgust last year when Messi’s name was called. Somewhat disrespectful to his great rival, but his frustration is understandable. Ronaldo has pledged not to attend this year’s gala, let’s see if if he can be persuaded.

Wambach did break a long standing record this year.(ISI Photos)

Wambach did break a long standing record this year.(ISI Photos)

In the Women’s category, Abby Wambach (USA) will have a chance to defend her 2012 award, she is up against Germany’s Nadine Angerer and the great Brazilian Marta. This looks to be Angerer’s year. The goalkeeper led Germany to the Euro 13 Women’s title, while winning UEFA Women’s Player of the Year. Goalkeeper’s generally don’t win these awards, but after saving two penalty kicks to help Germany claim the Euro title over Norway, momentum appears to be on the Brisbane Roar netminder’s side. Wambach and Marta did not have any comparable international showcase this year, although Wambach played a pivotal role in the launch of the fledgling National Women’s Soccer League and she became the USA’s international all time leading scorer.

FIFA’s top three coaches are Alex Ferguson (Scotland/former Manchester United), Jupp Heynckes (Germany/former Bayern Munich coach), and Jurgen Klopp (Germany/Borussia Dortmund). This would appear to be a battle between the retired veterans.

Ferguson's overall record is more than impressive but his last year was pretty mediocre by his standards(Getty Images)

Ferguson’s overall record is more than impressive but his last year was pretty mediocre by his standards(Getty Images)

Although Ferguson capped a magnificent career with one last English Premier League crown, Heynckes may have the edge. Bayern Munich were the world’s best club in 2012/13 completing an outstanding year by winning the Bundesliga by a wide margin and going on to beat Klopp’s Dortmund 2-1 in the final. Bayern’s 7-0 (aggregate) demolition job on Barcelona in the semifinal may have secured the honor for Heynckes.

The forward shortlist is (home country, club):
Sergio Agüero (Argentina, Manchester City FC); Mario Balotelli (Italy, Manchester City FC/AC Milan); Edinson Cavani (Uruguay, SSC Napoli/Paris Saint-Germain FC); Diego Costa (Spain, Club Atlético de Madrid); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid CF); Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire, Shanghai Shenhua FC/Galatasaray SK); Radamel Falcao (Colombia, Club Atlético de Madrid/AS Monaco FC); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden, Paris Saint-Germain FC); Robert Lewandowski (Poland, Borussia Dortmund); Mario Mandžukić (Croatia, FC Bayern München); Lionel Messi (Argentina, FC Barcelona); Neymar (Brazil, Santos FC/FC Barcelona); Wayne Rooney (England, Manchester United FC); Luis Suárez (Uruguay, Liverpool FC); Robin van Persie (Netherlands, Manchester United FC).

The three nominees for the FIFA Puskás Award for the “most beautiful goal of the year” were also announced. They are (in alphabetical order of the goalscorers’ names): Zlatan Ibrahimović (13 November 2012, Sweden v. England, international friendly), Nemanja Matić (13 January 2013, SL Benfica v. FC Porto, Liga ZON Sagres (Portugal)) and Neymar (15 June 2013, Brazil v. Japan, FIFA Confederations Cup).

All of the awards will be presented at the FIFA Ballon d’Or award Ceremony in Zurich on January 13. The FIFA Presidential award and the FIFA Fair Play award will also be handed out on the big night in Zurich.

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U-17 MNT Take on Portugal, England and Brazil
U-17 MNT Take on Portugal, England and Brazil avatar

The United States men’s U17 team open play today in the Nike International Challenge, in Lakewood Ranch, Florida taking on Portugal in the first match of a youth Group of Death, that brings to mind this summer’s World Cup schedule for the men’s senior team.

Head coach Richie Williams (R) . (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Head coach Richie Williams ® named his 20 man roster . (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Coach Richie Williams has called in a 20 player roster for the tournament, which runs from today through Friday. Brazil and England are the other teams in the challenging four nation event. The young Americans will play England next, on December 11th, before closing out against Brazil on Friday. All the games will be streamed live on ussoccer.com, with updates provided on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.

Five players from MLS academy sides will be representing the U.S. this week in Florida, as well as two players from foreign clubs. Luca de la Torre is in the Fulham system and Joe Gallardo is with Monterrey.

The U-17's (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The U-17′s at the Nike Tournament 2012. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Several of the U.S. players are currently unattached, including top prospect Daniel Barbir. This tournament will provide an excellent opportunity for this group of players, born in 1998, to test themselves against some top international talent in their age group.

U.S. U-17 MNT Roster by position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): William Pulisic (Richmond Strikers; Mechanicsville, Va.), Kevin Silva (PDA; Bethlehem, Pa.)
DEFENDERS (7): Hugo Arellano (Chivas USA Academy; Norwalk, Calif.), Daniel Barbir (Unattached; Allentown, Pa.), George Braima (Crew Soccer Academy; Columbus, Ohio), Edwin Lara (unattached; San Leandro, Calif.), John Nelson (Internationals; Medina, Ohio), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy; Trenton, N.J.), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal; Palmdale, Calif.), Luca De La Torre (Fulham; San Diego, Calif.), Thomas McCabe (PDA; South Orange, N.J.), Logan Panchot (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; St. Louis, Mo), Brian Zelaya (De Anza Force; San Mateo, Calif.), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas Academy; El Paso, Texas)
FORWARDS (5): Pierre Da Silva (New York Soccer Club; Port Chester, N.Y.), Joe Gallardo (Monterrey FC; San Diego, Calif.), Joshua Perez (unattached; La Habra, Calif.), Christian Pulisic (PA Classics; Hershey, Pa.), Haji Wright (LA Galaxy Academy; Los Angeles, Calif.)

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Men’s College Cup – Final 4 Set
Men’s College Cup – Final 4 Set avatar

After a weekend of tightly contested soccer that saw all four quarterfinal matches decided by one goal each, the Men’s College Cup at PPL Park, in Chester, Pennsylvania is set. Hopefully none of the participants are superstitious, the semifinals take place on Friday the 13th. Notre Dame will meet New Mexico in the early game at 5:00pm, with Virginia taking on Maryland, the only team from last year’s College Cup to make it all the way back, at 7:30.

For number 3 seed Notre Dame, this will be the men’s teams first trip to the College Cup, and coach Bobby Clarke’s team will be the highest remaining seed competing for the national title at the home of MLS club Philadelphia Union’s home stadium.

Notre Dame finally made the quarterfinals of the College Cup. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Notre Dame finally made the final four of the College Cup. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The Fighting Irish edged out 11th seeded Michigan State 2-1 Saturday evening in freezing conditions at their home pitch, Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame were the aggressors from the start, taking the game to the Spartans led by leading scorer Harrison Shipp, who came close to scoring twice in the opening 25 minutes.

The Irish finally broke through in the 31st minute when Evan Panken converted a pass from Vince Cicciarelli on a play that originated from a corner kick. The sophomore midfielder’s 5th goal of the year stood up until the half, sending the Irish to warmth of the dressing room with a1-0 advantage.

Just three minutes after the restart, Michigan State fell behind 2-0 on a fine individual goal from midfielder Patrick Hodan. Hodan snaked his way through the Michigan defense and put his shot just inside the right upright to score for the fifth straight game.

The Spartans fought hard to get back into the match, and Jay Chapman’s headed goal gave the Spartans life in the 59th minute. Notre Dame keeper Patrick Wall was a busy man the rest of the way, but he stood up to the pressure, saving well from Andrew Herr in the 73rd minute. Wall breathed a sigh of relief when he watched Tim Kreutz’ shot skim off of the post in the latter stages in what would be Michigan States last roll of the dice.

Notre Dame’s semifinal opponent New Mexico, knocked off second seed Washington in brutal conditions Saturday at the Huskies frozen home field, emerging with a 1-0 win. It added up to a bad Saturday for highly rated PAC 12 teams with fourth seeded Cal being eliminated 2-1 at home by number 5 Maryland. Top seed UCLA’s loss last Sunday to unseeded UConn started the PAC 12’s poor run.

New Mexico will be heading to the College Cup for just the second time in their history and Ben McKendry’s 37th minute goal sent them there. McKendry finished from the doorstep after James Rogers skimmed a ball across the icy surface to Oniell Fisher, who found the perfectly positioned McKendry.

The Lobos dominated possession for most of the frigid afternoon, although they had to resist a strong finish from the Huskies, who used the long throw in to dangerous affect.

Maryland will be hoping their experience will be an advantage. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Maryland will be hoping their experience will be an advantage. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

While Friday’s opening semifinal features two relative newcomers to the College Cup, the night cap will be more like a Homecoming Game. Virginia, 2-1 winners Friday night against Connecticut, are making their 11th trip to the Cup, for Maryland, who toppled Cal 2-1 on Saturday, this will be their 13th time at college soccer’s Big Dance.

Maryland are the only one of the four who played in last year’s College Cup in Hoover, Alabama, losing a heartbreaker to Georgetown. The Terrapins were sent home on pk’s after a 4-4 thriller last year , and would sorely love to go a step or two further 12 months later.

Maryland left it late on Saturday, but freshman Michael Sauers struck in the 86th minute to spare the Terps overtime and the prospect of another round of pk’s.

Maryland were on the board first via Alex Shinsky’s first career goal, a 33rd minute header. Cal equalized in the 50th minute when Stefano Bonomo was on hand to put home a rebound, after Maryland’s U.S. international U20 goalkeeper and Philadelphia Union Academy prospect Zack Steffan saved from point blank range.

Steffan had plenty of help from a tenacious Maryland defense, that saved off of the line more than once as Cal piled on the pressure. Sauers finally released that pressure when his 86th minute blast from distance beat Cal keeper Alex Mangels. The goal was the clutch freshman’s third of the postseason, and it was enough to send the Terps back to the familiar territory of the College Cup.

Darius Madison in action for Virginia. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Darius Madison in action for Virginia. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Virginia became the first team to advance to the 2013 College Cup with their 2-1 home victory Friday over Connecticut. Ryan Zinkhan and Jordan Allen scored the goals and the defense held up to avoid going to overtime with UConn, who won their last two games on pk’s, eliminating top seed UCLA in the process.

This has been quite a year for Virginia soccer as the men’s team join the Cavs women in making the Final Four. The men will be looking to outdo the women’s team who felt the agony of defeat when they went out to eventual champions UCLA in the semifinal on penalty kicks, after coming in as the tournament’s number 1 seed.

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UCLA Crowned National Champs
UCLA Crowned National Champs avatar

One goal brought the 2013 NCAA Women’s College Cup Championship to a close this afternoon at WakeMed Park in Cary, NC, where UCLA defeated FSU 1-0 in overtime, braving unfavorable weather and an equally talented opponent to snatch the coveted title.

UCLA beat 3 ACC teams to get this well deserved title. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

UCLA beat 3 ACC teams to get this well deserved title. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Slipping and sliding through a seemingly never-ending drizzle accompanied by dreary, low temperatures, the Bruins and Seminoles began a furious and wet tug-o-war match with little chances created between either side. Jamia Fields was a constant nuisance, and though small in stature, her speed and power was a trying force and UCLA defenders constantly had to keep on her tail.

FSU's Dagny Brynjarsdottir couldn't dominate UCLA as much as she would have liked. (ISI Photos/Steven Limentani)

FSU’s Dagny Brynjarsdottir couldn’t dominate UCLA as much as she would have liked. (ISI Photos/Steven Limentani)

The Bruins gave Florida State their own set of problems to handle, with midfielder Taylor Smith lurking in the box, waiting for her time to strike. FSU goalkeeper Kelsey Wys made two outstanding saves against Smith, including a deadly shot from her in the final seconds of the first half that hit the post hard. The half ended 0-0 with UCLA outshooting FSU 6-2.

The second half ensued and was just as physically taxing as the first. It was apparent the tension was mounting as both sides aggressively sought out a goal, at times getting a bit scrappy in the midfield. UCLA held possession the majority of the game with FSU defense holding steady, and though the Bruins came close to scoring, outshooting the ‘Noles 15-5, they weren’t able to put the ball away.

On to overtime.

UCLA's Kodi Lavrusky got the game winner to lead her team to a national title. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

UCLA’s Kodi Lavrusky got the game winner to lead her team to a national title. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The viscous battle resumed and a similar pattern observed throughout the afternoon saw both teams standing resilient. It looked as if a second overtime would follow, but then came the winning goal. In the 96th minute UCLA junior defender Megan Oyster got the ball and sent a beautiful cross into the box. Senior forward Kodi Lavrusky saw her window and one timed a low shot past the FSU goalkeeper straight into the back of the net. For the 1-0 win.

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2013 MLS Cup Champions – Sporting Kansas
2013 MLS Cup Champions – Sporting Kansas avatar

It was finally over when Real Salt Lake’s Lovell Palmer’s penalty kick rattled off of the crossbar and away from Jimmy Nielsen’s goal, making Sporting K.C. the 2013 MLS Cup Champions.

Graham Zusi (R) get past Tony Beltran (L). (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Graham Zusi (R) get past Tony Beltran (L). (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

With a game time temperature of 20 degrees this was the coldest game in MLS history. With the cold too much for the in ground heating system, Sporting Park’s field had visible patches of ice, and the sloppy, rugged first half play should hardly have come as a surprise.

Among the sloppy performers on this night was KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen who endured an awful night, somehow surrendering just Alvaro Saborio’s 52nd minute goal in regulation. Nielsen’s weak punch fell to Robbie Findley on the half hour mark, but Findley’s shot bounced off of the upright and right into the SKC keeper’s hands.

Sporting dominated the first half, but other than a Dom Dwyer effort that Nick Rimando saved. Salt Lake were able to weather SKC’s predictable attack, which consisted of a heavy dose of crosses that center backs Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler happily dispatched.

Kyle Beckerman (ISI Photos/

Kyle Beckerman was the provider for Real Salt Lake. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Real Salt Lake finally broke through via Saborio’s goal. The Costa Rican international expertly controlled a fine chipped through ball from Kyle Beckerman with his chest, before firing past Nielsen.

Beckerman was feeling it now after a quiet first half, and he nearly beat Nielsen from close to 40 yards, only the upright could keep Beckerman’s piledriver out of the K.C. net.

Mauro Rosales rattled Nielsen’s upright in the 73rd minute, with Nielsen looking lost. K.C. leveled just three minutes later with center back Aurelien Collin powering home a header from Graham Zusi’s corner kick.

That corner came from good work from Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, who were effective changing up the SKC attack, stringing some passes together through the center of the Salt Lake defense. Kansas City probably won this game in regular time, but Claudio Bieler fired hig after Seth Sinovic set him up in excellent position.

In front of their home crowd Sporting came flying out at the start of extra time Paulo Nagamura blasted wide on set up work from Feilhaber and Zusi, and a fine half volley from Zusi brought about a tremendous save from Rimando.

The second extra time period was closer, and the match officials were on the ball on two huge calls. The first call had the freezing KC fans calling for a penalty when C.J. Sapong went down after receiving a marvelous through ball from Feilhaber. Replays confirmed that referee Hilario Grajeda was right on the no call. Soon after Saborio put a shot past Nielsen, but that was correctly ruled offside and it was soon on to penalty kicks.

The odds were in Salt Lake’s favor considering Rimando’s stellar record on penalty kicks, alongside Nielsen’s poor performance all night. SKC quickly took the advantage with goals from Bieler and Nagamura while Saborio and Ned Grabavoy both missed for RSL. A Matt Besler miss gave RSL hope and before long it was 6-6. When Palmer stepped up to the spot the only players left to kick were the two goalkeepers.

But the woodwork was kind to Nielsen one more time and Sporting Kansas City are the MLS Cup Champions.

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Florida State and UCLA – Who will be crowned Champions?
Florida State and UCLA – Who will be crowned Champions? avatar

And then there were two.

UCLA and FSU to be exact, pitted in a Championship match as serious as a match can get, and you just had to witness the semifinals to see how physically and mentally intense it was. Talent, intelligence and competitive toughness oozed out of each and every player, the kind of intensity that personifies a true athlete, the kind of sheer power needed to break free from a pack of top notch teams to be the best.

Friday evening was gorgeous at WakeMed Park in Cary, NC where FSU defeated Virginia Tech and UCLA beat out Virginia in two of the most grueling and electrifying games of the season thus far.

The beautiful evening progressed into a long and enduring night as it became apparent just how competitive the atmosphere at this year’s NCAA women’s College Cup actually is. At the post game press conference, FSU head coach Mark Krikorian was all business stating, “I don’t think you’re going to see a whole lot of celebrating until Sunday if we’re able to finally get it done.”

FSU (ISI Photos/ Steven Limentani)

FSU will be hoping this is their year. (ISI Photos/ Steven Limentani)

FSU is no stranger to the College Cup, having qualified for seven since 2003, including the past three consecutive years, but have not yet adorned that precious Championship crown. That hunger has grown over the years and now is the chance for them to make their mark- but it’s not going to be easy by any means, and after they battled back and forth with Virginia Tech yesterday, they may be one step closer to the title, but this may be the toughest year yet.

Goals were scored down to final stretch of the semi match, and though Jamia Fields winning goal gave FSU the edge they needed to pull a win, Virginia Tech kept them on their toes to the very last minute when speed demon Jazmine Reeves just shaved the crossbar to miss a dangerously close goal.

UCLA had to dig deep as well, pushing through double overtime into penalty kicks to decide who would advance. As they grappled with Virginia through regulation it was like watching a team play against themselves, with little scoring opportunities allotted between each and a teeth gritting mental game ensued as both tried to outwit the other, matching skill and endurance beautifully.

UCLA have plenty experienced players in their team and will be confident. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

UCLA have plenty experienced players in their team and will be confident. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

UCLA also know what it’s like to crave the College Cup title, coming close nine times but never being able to stake claim. Still, though treacherous on the field, the Bruins looked light and easy during the press conferences, all smiles and obvious that they share a special bond with first year UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell. Confidence abounds from the team, and they will need a lot of it for tomorrow’s final which is sure to be just as intense, more even, compared to last night’s conquests.

But Cromwell seems ready for whatever may come, and she credits her Florida past stating, “It’s funny we’re playing Florida State. (Myself) coming from UCF, we’ve played them multiple times, every season basically for the last 14 years.  We played them almost every year. I’m familiar with that team. Josh (Walters), my assistant, was the Director of Operations there a couple years ago. We will have the knowledge we need to have a good game plan.”


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UCLA Defeats Virginia in Penalty Kicks
UCLA Defeats Virginia in Penalty Kicks avatar

The aggressive competition continued on in tonight’s semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Women’s College Cup in Cary, NC as UCLA and Virginia played an incredibly tight match with UCLA prevailing in penalty kicks 4-2 to nab the final spot in the College Cup championship against FSU.

UCLA and Virginia lineup at the beginning of the game.

UCLA and Virginia lineup at the beginning of the game.

Following an incredibly physical nail biter between FSU and Virginia Tech, this match was no different. The Bruins and Cavaliers kept neck and neck throughout with sheer determination and grit, but tonight, it was a game for the underdogs.

No one scored in the first half, but both teams played some beautiful soccer, getting creative and fine-tuning technical and passing skills as they tried to finagle a way around defense, but to no avail. UCLA outshot Virginia four to three to finish the half, with zero saves recorded for both sides.

“There’s no weakness that we could exploit. We had to be really patient,” UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell said in the post game press conference. ”We didn’t have the ball for periods of time, and we weren’t used to that. It was one of those games that was back and forth. It was a chess match at times.”

The scoreless stalemate continued through the second half, but neither side backed down with eager attempts to break through opposition for a shot at the back of the net. UCLA played an aggressive game while Virginia carefully passed the ball and took long shots, missing the mark, but persevering nonetheless.

Virginia's leading scorer Doniak .(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Virginia’s leading scorer Doniak put her team in the lead .(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Then, with 17 mins left in regulation sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak saw a chance to score for the Cavaliers and bravely stepped up. She collected the ball and sped towards the UCLA goal, breaking away from the opposition and forcing UCLA goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland off her line. With an empty net in site, the seconds melted in slow motion, until Doniak fired the fateful shot. It hit the back of the net and Virginia fans went wild as their team took the lead 1-0.

With only minutes left in regulation, UCLA sought out an equalizer and was rewarded with only five minutes left in the game. The goal was hard earned, but made for a thrilling finish as junior defender Ally Courtnall grappled with a defender for control of the ball then blasted a low ball into the back of the net to tie things up and push the game into overtime.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all. When I got the ball, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t mess up. I have to put this away.’ This whole experience has been surreal,” Courtnall told reporters.

UCLA celebrate during the PK shootout. (ISI Photos/ Steven Limentani)

UCLA celebrate during the PK shootout. (ISI Photos/ Steven Limentani)

But neither team would emerge victorious in overtime, not even in double overtime. The underdogs beat UVA 4-2 in the penalty shootout to advance to the 2013 College Cup final against FSU on Sunday.

“Honestly when it comes down to PKs, the number one thing in my head is: I got to do it for my team,” recounted UCLA goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland. “They battled for 110 minutes. When it came down to that I tried to come up big for them, because they battled out there. They really deserved those two saves.”









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