HOOVER, Ala. – They really should do this more often.
Washington, D.C., counterparts Maryland and Georgetown played to a pulsating 4-4 draw in the College Cup semifinals on Friday night, with the Hoyas eventually winning 4-3 on penalty kicks to book a ticket to their first national championship appearance.
“In today’s game, you saw the absolute beauty and you use the cruelty,” said Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski. “This was a spectacle. This was a game people will be talking about 20 or 30 years from now as one of the greatest College Cup games ever.”
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With Maryland leading 1-0, MAC Hermann Trophy semi-finalist Steve Neumann flipped the script on a stunned Terrapins defense with a 90-second double salvo. His first tally finished off a neat build up as he slotted home Tyler Rudy’s smart header across the area, while the second was a brilliant individual effort to beat Keith Cardona from 20 yards out.
Then things really got crazy.
Minutes into the second half, freshman phenom Brandon Allen punished Cardona for taking too long on the ball, blocking the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance into the Maryland net for a 3-1 Hoyas lead.
Schillo Tshuma then picked up his second goal of the night to make it 3-2, and it seemed like the heavily favored Terps were ready to take the game by the scruff.
But Neumann had different ideas, completing his hat-trick just two minutes after Tshuma’s goal as some fantastic work from Allen freed Andy Riemer down the left flank. Riemer’s pinpoint cross gave Neumann his easiest goal of the night and a 4-2 lead.
Even that wasn’t safe, however, and just seconds after subbing into the game, right back Mikey Ambrose ripped a shot off the crossbar that bounced kindly for Patrick Mullins to finish off.
The Terrapins completed the comeback 13 minutes from time with a remarkable individual effort from Christiano Francois. The freshman slalomed through the heart of Georgetown’s defense before curling a shot past Thomas Gomez to knot the thrilling game at 4-4.
Despite a multitude of chances, the game remained scoreless through the last 13 minutes plus overtime, sending the classic to penalty kicks. With a chance to win it, Gomez stopped Taylor Kemp and Helge Leikvang on consecutive kicks to send Georgetown to Sunday’s championship (2 pm ET; ESPNU, ESPN3.com).
That's when they'll meet the Indiana Hoosiers, who qualified for a record 14th trip to the College Cup final with a 1-0 win over Creighton later Friday night.
“For me, growing up in Bloomington, it’s special,” senior defender Caleb Konstanski told reporters. “You grow up watching the teams bring back national titles and coming here as freshman that was the goal to bring the team back. It was a long process, but this is such an unbelievable feeling.”
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It didn’t have the drama of the night’s first match, but the workmanlike defense on both sides meant one defensive miscue could decide the winner and that’s exactly what happened. Arguably Indiana’s best player all evening, freshman Femi Hollinger-Janzen punished Creighton’s only moment of sloppiness on defense, ripping a whiffed clearance past Jeff Gal in the 27th minute for the lone tally.
While Hollinger-Janzen grabbed the headlines, it was fifth-year senior goalkeeper Luis Soffner that made sure the Hoosiers would stay in Hoover for the entire weekend. With three minutes left on the clock and the Blue Jays pushing for a late equalizer, Soffner made the play of the game, stoning Christian Blandon on a curling effort destined for the top corner.
“There’s no doubt that strong team defense is the formula for having successful tournament runs and winning championships,” said Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley. “That’s been the backbone of our program since we became varsity in 1973.”
Because of that defense, Indiana is headed back to the national championship game for the first time since 2004.
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