MEN'S SOCCER | Riemer, Hoyas Primed for Cup
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 23:12
The past four years have been quite the journey for senior midfielder Andy Riemer.
Despite having been an All-Met and three-time all-conference performer, the McLean, Va., product went unrecruited out of high school and was thus forced to work his way up from the bottom rung, beginning his career on the Hilltop as a member of the Georgetown practice squad his freshman year. Now, three years, 21 goals and seven assists later, a seasoned Riemer finds himself as the second-leading scorer and an entrenched starter on Georgetown’s first-ever Final Four team.
It was Riemer who, on Saturday, secured passage for the Hoyas (19-3-2, 6-2-0 Big East) through to the College Cup, tallying the insurance goal in the 88th minute against San Diego and sprinting to the sideline in celebration as the sellout North Kehoe crowd erupted.
“[Scoring that goal against San Diego] was a great feeling. The support we had at that game was unlike any game I’ve ever been a part of,” Riemer said.
Tonight, the clutch contributions that Riemer has come to be known for will be needed more than ever, as a championship berth is on the line against second-seeded Maryland (20-1-2, 6-1-1 ACC) in the biggest game in program history.
The Terps — who topped Big East Red Division champs Louisville 3-1 in the Elite Eight — come into Friday’s matchup on a six-game winning streak, having dropped their only game so far in their regular season finale at Wake Forest before running the table to claim the ACC tournament crown.
Virginia is the lone common opponent between the two teams, with both Georgetown and Maryland emerging with hard-fought 1-0 victories over the Cavaliers.
“You look at the starting lineup [Maryland has] and go through one to 11 of those guys, and they’re all special,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “Every one of them is a top-end player, and then they take off this top-end player and they put on another top-end player.
“They use incredible depth, and they’re built to wear you down with speed, with talent, with pressure — they play at an amazing clip over 90 minutes. How they’re built and how they play, coupled with how deep they are, makes them really difficult to manage. … You can’t let up for a second against them.”
“We do know that they have a lot of talent,” junior forward Steve Neumann said. “There’s a number of guys who could beat us, but we [also] have a bunch of guys who could beat them. A lot of people have been looking forward to this matchup, and we think it will be a pretty good spectacle.”
Among the quality players Neumann references is his Maryland counterpart, junior forward Patrick Mullins, who Thursday was chosen as one of three Hermann Trophy finalists after finishing first in the online voting component of the award; Neumann, on the other hand, was not chosen as a finalist, despite finishing second in online voting. In just 17 games this season, the prolific Mullins has posted 14 goals — tying him for fifth in the country — to go along with five assists.
Mullins’ scoring prowess is complemented by that of skilled freshman Schillo Tshuma, who has eight goals and two assists to his credit on his rookie campaign.
While noting that communication and organization will be key to containing a potent Terrapins attack that ranks first nationally in goals per game, senior defender Tommy Muller stressed that he and his teammates will, above all, remain focused on playing their game.
“I think for us the biggest thing is just to stick to what we’ve been doing every day in training and on the field — and I think we trust in what we’re doing, and ultimately Friday is just another game,” Muller said. “It is on a different stage, and there’s a lot more at stake, but when it comes right down to it, we’re not going to play any differently.”
On the offensive side, meanwhile, Neumann, Riemer and standout freshman striker Brandon Allen should be able to find some holes to exploit.
Maryland’s experienced back line boasts two seniors and one redshirt junior, but the Terps have still allowed 0.96 goals per contest, a figure that puts them at just 48th in the country to the Hoyas’ 18th. Maryland has yet, moreover, to keep a clean sheet in the NCAA tournament, allowing one goal each to Brown, Coastal Carolina and Louisville.
The bottom line: Expect to see the ball rip the nylon a few times in this one.
Having played to two 2-1 wins and one 3-2 loss in a comparable setting in the Big East tournament, the Blue and Gray have gotten used to higher-scoring games in pressure-packed settings. The rigors of Big East play, though, prepared Georgetown for this moment in many more ways than just that.
“If we weren’t in this conference, I think we’d be a group that’s saying, ‘What are we getting into here?’” Wiese said. “But in a funny way — for being the first team to go to a College Cup from Georgetown — this group feels about as seasoned as you could possibly be going into it.”
As with Riemer’s career, Georgetown’s 2012 season has churned out some surprising but well-earned twists in going from unranked to Big East tournament finalist to Final Four. Now, with the limelight turned up even brighter, these historic Hoyas will need to muster up a near pitch-perfect performance to make it to college soccer’s biggest stage.
“It’ll come down to just who’s better on the day,” Riemer said, “and I’m really excited because I think that they’ll be the best challenge that we’ve had this season.”
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. in Hoover, Ala. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.