Five of the 16 seeded teams were eliminated last Sunday. SMU, UAB, St. John’s, UC Irvine, and Boston College were all left with a short postseason run after tasting defeat on home soil in the second round.
Now, the victors advance to the third round where they are only two wins away from a trip to Hoover, Alabama and the 2011 College Cup.
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(Home team listed first. All games played on Sunday, Nov. 27.)
UNC (18-2-2) – Indiana (13-3-5), 1:00 p.m. (ET)
The Tar Heels battled back from a one-goal deficit at half to knock off Coastal Carolina in the previous round, 3-2. The Hoosiers were not tested at all, as the Big Ten squad steamrolled over Old Dominion 3-0.
Opposed to the high-output from both teams in the last round, this game will be a defensive struggle with the battle in midfield taking the pejorative. The difference here between these two very good teams will be one mistake, and despite Indiana’s run of form (no losses since October 9), it is likely coming from the visitors.
Prediction: UNC 1-0
Brown (12-4-3) – St. Mary’s (10-6-5), 5:00 p.m. (ET)
Grind it out. That is the motto. That is the game plan. That is why this will be a tough watch for a neutral fan.
Neither the Gaels nor the Browns will bring much flair to this game, but they do bring a certain grace to their ability to shutdown opposing offenses. Brown upset St. John’s in the previous round while St. Mary’s knocked out eight seed UC Irvine.
On a neutral venue, the Gaels would probably be the favorite in this game, but traveling to Rhode Island destroys any advantage the WCC champions had.
Prediction: Brown 1-0
Creighton (19-2-0) – UCSB (15-6-1), 2:00 p.m. (ET)
Creighton barely had to sweat while it destroyed Northern Illinois in the second round 3-0. UCSB, in typical fashion for this season, held on late to a 3-2 victory over Providence.
On paper, this is the most attractive game in the third round. UCSB, perhaps due to a lack of desire to defend, create a lot of goal scoring opportunities.
Creighton, on the other hand, has barely been threatened in recent fixtures with more teams attempting to defend than attack Elmar Bolowich’s highly regarded squad. The Bluejays defense could be in for a challenge like the one they saw from Maryland in this one.
Scouts will be watching the midfield as Jose Gomez and Bruno Castro against Fifi Baiden is perhaps the best battle on the day. If the Ghanaian can handle the lethal Creighton duo, the Gauchos might just hang around.
Prediction: 2-1 Creighton
South Florida (13-3-3) – New Mexico (18-0-3), 6:00 p.m. (ET)
The Lobos, unjustly given the 10 seed, survived against a dangerous Duke team in the second round with a 2-1 win in overtime. The home team won by the same margin and in a similar manner over instate rival UCF.
USF has the massive advantage with home field, but it could potentially be neglected by the impending storm heading towards Tampa this weekend. With rainy conditions expected, this game goes to New Mexico’s favor. The Lobos are content without maintaining possession and will capitalize on mistakes.
Prediction: 1-0 UNM
UCONN (18-3-2) – James Madison (13-4-2), 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Sunday’s victory over Wake Forest was the first win for James Madison since October 26. Now, the Dukes are among the final 16 teams left in the tournament and looking to pull off a massive upset against UCONN, which won its game 2-1 over Monmouth.
The blueprint to beat the Huskies is rather simple: they always lose in penalty kicks, so if the Dukes could put together a convincing defensive performance for 110 minutes, there is a good chance that upset is in the cards.
Given UCONN’s performance in the second round, that idea seems realistic. However, with the amount of talent on that squad, it should just be a matter of time before the Huskies put the pieces together in front of the net.
Prediction: 2-0 UCONN
Charlotte (15-4-2) – Akron (15-3-4), 7:00 p.m. (ET)
The early goal from the 49ers was the difference maker against UAB on Sunday. Evan James scored 45 seconds into the contest and the home team was forced to chase the game, which played right into Charlotte’s strategy.
The approach was different from Akron, as the Zips relied on the potent attack to just outpace SMU to advance to the third round 3-2. Darren Mattocks led the way with two goals; unheralded transfer Luke Holmes was once again providing the opportunities.
The Zips will not change their approach for any team; it is going to be possession, possession, and possession. The 49ers have a week to figure out the best way to break through that holdup.
Prediction: Akron 2-2 Charlotte. Akron advances 4-3 in PKs.
Boston College’s bracket
Maryland (14-3-3) – Louisville (13-6-2), 5:00 p.m. (ET)
Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski made a shocking decision last Sunday when he benched senior goalkeeper Will Swaim, who had started nearly every game of the season, in favor of freshman Keith Cardona.
The move did not matter much in retrospect as Cardona only made one save on the way to a 4-0 victory over West Virginia, but it did shake the team from a slumber.
The Cardinals needed late heroics to eliminate the pesky Bradley Braves, but, thanks to a goal in double overtime, Ken Lolla’s side is headed to College Park on Sunday. Now, Louisville is faced with the daunting task of beating the Terps at home, where they are 11-0-1 on the season.
Prediction: Maryland 3-1
UCLA (16-4-1) – Rutgers (10-6-4), 8:00 p.m. (ET)
Rutgers upset Boston College in the second round to earn this trip to Los Angeles on Sunday. UCLA defeated Delaware via another Chandler Hoffman game-winner to secure its spot.
The teams that have been successful against UCLA this season are midfield dominant with a nice blend of physical and dynamic play. That makes Juan Pablo Correa the most important player in this third round clash.
Correa, a freshman, has been the facilitator for this team with six goals and five assists. He is also the prototypical player to cause problems for the Bruins defense. Although, the PAC-12 champions defense has been perfect lately with a 555-minute shutout streak.
Prediction: UCLA 2-1
2011 prediction record: 23-9
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