MEN'S SOCCER | Relocated Big East No Obstacle for GU
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 9, 2012 01:11
So much for the men’s soccer team’s season-long goal of getting to Red Bull Arena: Amid all the election fervor, the Big East Conference announced Tuesday that, due to weather reasons, the tournament semifinals and final will be moved from New Jersey to PPL Park in Chester, Pa., home to the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer.
Georgetown’s regular chant of “Red Bull” after every practice and game may have been all for naught, then, but senior midfielder Andy Riemer made clear that the venue shift won’t affect the team’s approach.
“It’s still an MLS field, a great field,” he said. “Red Bull was really just a symbol for us, as a goal to make the semifinals and the final of the Big East tournament. And we did that, so it doesn’t really change our mentality.”
In fact, there’s actually a lot to like about PPL Park if you’re the Blue and Gray. Not only will the conditions be better than in Hurricane Sandy-stricken New Jersey, but the City of Brotherly Love also presents a shorter trip for the Hoyas, who constitute something of a de facto home team considering the number of Philadelphia-area players on their roster.
Potential advantages notwithstanding, Head Coach Brian Wiese was pleased with the conference’s ability to reschedule so effectively in such a short amount of time.
“The Big East has done a very impressive job. The fact that we get told we’re not able to play at Red Bull less than a week before the tournament starts and now we’re playing at PPL Park — that’s a tribute to the Big East offices,” Wiese said. “Where the league is prioritizing soccer as one of its marquee sports is great.”
With the league taking care of the details, No. 4 Georgetown (16-2-1, 6-2-0 Big East) will be free to focus on its semifinal matchup today with No. 10 Marquette (16-2-1, 5-2-1). Each of the remaining teams hails from the Blue Division, but the Golden Eagles — coming off of a 3-0 thrashing of Cincinnati and a 2-1 win at No. 16 Louisville — are the only one of the four that had to play two games to reach the semis.
Shortly after back-to-back losses to fellow semifinalists UConn and Notre Dame, the Hoyas previously defeated then-No. 4 Marquette at North Kehoe Field on Oct. 13 to get themselves back on track. Junior forward Steve Neumann supplied an assist and the game-winning goal in that game to give his side a resume-boosting and confidence-restoring win.
The challenge now will be repeating that feat on a neutral site.
“I think we’ve done our homework,” freshman right back and Philadelphia Union Academy product Keegan Rosenberry said. “All we can do [now] is control the things that we can handle, and hopefully doing all that stuff is going to help us get as prepared as possible going into the game.”
A like-minded Wiese explained that he doesn’t foresee many surprises out of the quartet of top-10 squads in action at PPL this weekend.
“All four teams are hugely successful, so you’re not going to get a team that’s trying to reinvent itself,” he said. “All of the teams are doing stuff that’s working, so the first night, the teams will [say], ‘Well, we’re going to line up and do what we do.’ And the other team’s going to line up and do what they do, and you just hope that you’re better on the day and you can minimize the strengths of the other team.”
Having beaten No. 17 St. John’s, 2-1, in a gutsy performance at home its last time out, the Blue and Gray should not be lacking in confidence. With the remaining teams boasting a combined 34 -1-2 out-of-conference record, however, Georgetown is sure to have a tough assignment.
“We expect [Marquette] to be a hard-nosed, physical team, and we expect them to give us a good game,” Riemer said. “But I think we can take them.”
When asked what they’d been emphasizing in practice before departing yesterday, he continued, “We’ve been really working on playing fast. They’re a quick team, an athletic team, and we’ve just been working on our speed of play to try to get the ball in and around their defense quicker.”
With Marquette tied for second in the Big East with 0.74 goals allowed per game, the Hoyas’ ability to unlock that stout defense will be key to Friday’s game.
At the same time, though, Rosenberry and the rest of the defense will have to keep an eye on senior forward Andy Huftalin, who is fourth in the Big East in goals, with 10 on the season. As a team, the Golden Eagles lead the conference in points and assists, and centerbacks Tommy Muller, a senior, and Cole Seiler, a freshman, will once again be called upon to step up to keep them out of the net.
If it can do that, Georgetown will get a chance to add its first-ever Big East tournament title to this year’s regular-season crown.
“For us, it’s just going to be about doing what we can do to make program history,” Rosenberry said. “Obviously, we want to strive to do the best we can and hopefully come out with the right result.”
No matter how that result turns out, though, Wiese said that the three hotly contested and high-quality contests are guaranteed to provide a spectacle.
“It’s a great advert for college soccer. I think this whole weekend is going to be special.”
Kickoff between Georgetown and Marquette is slated for 5 p.m. tonight, while Notre Dame-Connecticut will follow at 7:30 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.
The championship game is set for Sunday at noon.