MEN'S SOCCER | GU One Step From Final Four
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 01:11
Through four rounds, Georgetown’s section of the 2012 NCAA tournament bracket is one that has been chiefly defined by upsets, with No. 6 seed UCLA, No. 11 Tulsa and No. 14 VCU all being sent home early.
The third-seeded Hoyas (18-3-2, 6-2-0 Big East) have thus far stayed clear of any potential Cinderellas on their road to the College Cup, but unseeded San Diego (14-8-0, 9-3-0 West Coast Conference) will provide another major obstacle on Saturday in the Elite Eight. The Toreros — who were responsible for impressively knocking out UCLA and Tulsa — are perhaps playing better than any other team in the tourney field after what was a largely uninspiring league campaign.
Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese is well aware of the challenge that San Diego is sure to pose.
“Anybody you play at this stage has some potent weapons to them, and they’re certainly no exception,” Wiese said. “They’re hot as anybody in the country — they’re 12-2 over the last 14 games. They’ve shown uncommon resilience as a team in that they’ve gone on the road to three ranked teams, been down 1-0 in each of those games and have found a way to come back and win and, in the case of UCLA, win well.”
“Winning well,” in this case, meant a decisive 5-2 thrashing in Los Angeles. The Bruins, who had lost just two games this season prior to that Nov. 9 matchup, were manhandled on their own turf, thanks in part to a two-goal performance from Torero senior forward Patrick Wallen.
A 2-1 comeback win on the road against Tulsa came next, as sophomore midfielder Connor Brandt put his side ahead for good in the 68th minute after a 13th-minute Golden Hurricane goal had put San Diego on the back foot out of the gate.
“They’ll be as confident as anybody in the country, and they certainly won’t be afraid of us,” Wiese said of the Toreros. “It’s going to be one of these games where they’re going to try to play their brand of soccer, and they’re not going to care where they’re playing or who they’re playing against.”
At the same time, though, one can’t help but think that the visitors will give the accomplished Blue and Gray a great deal of respect on Saturday.
Following a regular season in which they shared the Big East title, the Hoyas came within less than a minute of claiming the program’s first conference tournament championship before falling to Notre Dame in double overtime. Since then, Georgetown has posted wins over Charlotte, last year’s runner-up, and most recently Syracuse on penalty kicks to get to this point.
And Wiese stressed that his players aren’t ready to say goodbye to their 2012 campaign just yet.
“This group’s always had an even keel to them, and I think you saw that in the Syracuse game. It seems no team can fluster these guys,” he said. “But it’s an interesting dichotomy because on the one hand, we’re expected to make it to the College Cup [as the top seed in the region], and on the other hand, we’re trying to do something that we’ve never done before.”
With an offense led by junior forward Steve Neumann — who was named one of 15 Hermann Trophy semifinalists on Wednesday — and prolific freshman striker Brandon Allen, Georgetown should be fully capable Saturday of breaking down a Torero defense that has not kept a clean sheet in its three postseason contests.
The lone common opponent between the two teams is California State, Northridge, whom the Toreros have faced twice this season, the first of those two meetings resulting in a lopsided 5-0 Northridge victory. San Diego exorcised its demons in the first round of the NCAAs when it really mattered, though, winning 2-1 against the team in overtime to advance. The Hoyas, meanwhile, took down the Matadors 1-0 on Aug. 31 with a game-winning goal from Allen.
In the end, however, who goes through to the Final Four and whose season comes to a disappointing close won’t be determined by history. Each team’s fate will now only be decided by how it performs from whistle to whistle.
“I think we’re just hoping for another good performance, like any other [time] this year,” Wiese said. “The stakes are high, but I think this group can settle down and hopefully play our brand of soccer. After 90 minutes, we’ll see if it’s good enough.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at North Kehoe Field.