#2 UCLA vs. #16 Virginia Men's Soccer 2014 NCAA Tournament Final Game Breakdown

UCLA Men's College Soccer


#2 UCLA vs. #16 Virginia

Both semifinal contests went about how most expected, with the first game showing off a couple great defenses and the second ending with five total goals scored. But if you are a fan of underdogs, Friday was disappointing.

In the first semifinal, UMBC faced #16 Virginia. The Retrievers got off to a horrible start, making a mistake in the back and giving up their first goal of the entire tournament in the fifth minute. Virginia’s Darius Madison netted home a pass from Pablo Aguilar after he gained possession near the UMBC box. UMBC held firm and controlled possession, but that goal allowed Virginia to concentrate on their defense. And they have a tough defense to crack, especially for a defensive minded team like UMBC. However, there were plenty of chances in the second half for an equalizer. UVA keeper Calle Brown made just one save, but the Terriers earned nine corners and looked poised to find an equalizer. The Virginia defense deserves a lot of credit and they will need to stay sharp against UCLA in the finals.

The Bruins advanced past upset minded Providence 3-2 in overtime. During regulation it was the Larry Ndjock and Mac Steeves show. Ndjock got the Bruins on the board late in the first half and the Bruins took that lead to halftime. The Friars finally broke through in the 65th minute when Steeves scored his first goal of the evening. His second came just nine minutes later and it looked like Providence would hang on. But Ndjock had other ideas and equalized in the 81st minute, eventually sending the game to overtime. It seemed like a stroke of genius that one striker or another would decide the game, but it was more a bit of luck that sent the Bruins through to the final. Chase Gasper found a corner kick deflected his way but his shot was headed well wide until it struck senior Providence captain Brandon Adler and wound up in the back of the net.

This will be the fourth time UCLA and Virginia have met in the NCAA Tournament, including the 1997 College Cup Final. The Bruins have won all three contests. More recent history bodes well for the Bruins too. They have had success against ACC team this year, beating Wake Forest and North Carolina early in the regular season and again getting the best of UNC in the NCAA Tournament, advancing on penalty kicks to reach the College Cup. Those are two squads Virginia did struggle with this season. But once again the key for the Cavaliers could be Eric Bird. Bird, Virginia’s leading scorer in the regular season, has missed nearly the entire tournament with an injury. He did not start against UMBC in the semifinals, but did play 11 minutes off of the bench at the end of the game. The early goal may have allowed Coach George Gelnovatch to keep his superstar on the bench to rest, so we will not see exactly what Bird can give, and for how long, until the finals. The other key will be between the posts for Virginia. Brown is going to have to make more than one big save to beat UCLA on Sunday afternoon.


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