Men's College Cup: Cautious Virginia romps

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

Only Saint Louis (10) and Indiana (8) have won more NCAA Division I men's titles than Virginia, which won its seventh national championship on Sunday. It wasn't pretty, however, as the Cavaliers parked their bus in front of their goal and held off UCLA, which had entered the game with 11 goals in four NCAA Tournament games, for a 4-2 shootout win following a scoreless draw after 110 minutes.

1. This was not the Virginia we all loved.

There was a decade or so in the late 1980s and early 1990s when UVA was the team to watch. Bruce Arena not only had the players -- Claudio Reyna, Mike Fisher, A.J. Wood, Damian Silvera -- but they came out and attacked and attacked and attacked. George Gelnovatch, an assistant on many of those Arena teams, had a different idea to approach Sunday's College Cup.

Playing with eight or nine men behind the ball, the Cavaliers showed little willingness to attack UCLA even though the Bruins had shown they were very vulnerable defensively, allowing eight goals in their first four NCAA Tournament games. In a game of few concrete chances, UCLA outshot Virginia, 15-9. Those nine shots were a lot better than UVa had done in the semifinals against UMBC when it managed just three shots.

Gelnovatch now has two national championships, both won in shootouts after finals that ended scoreless in Cary. In 2009, Virginia beat Akron, which played 11 future MLS players.

2. This was supposed to have been UCLA's year.

UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo knows all about shootouts. As a freshman on a 1990 UCLA team with Joe-Max Moore, Cobi Jones, Brad Friedel, Chris Henderson and Mike Lapper -- all U.S. World Cup players -- he scored the decisive penalty kick goal as the Bruins beat Rutgers in a shootout after their game ended 0-0.

Since taking over as head coach in 2004, Salcedo has endured nothing but frustration, however. This was supposed to be the Bruins' year. Their No. 2 seed was the highest in Salcedo's 11 years at UCLA, and the field was cleared out for the Bruins as the No. 1 seed Notre Dame (beaten by Virginia), No. 4 Maryland, No. 5 Indiana and No. 6 Stanford all lost in the second round and No. 3 Michigan State went out two rounds later.

Nothing could stop the Bruins on the road to the final. They trailed San Diego in the second round and won, held off Cal 3-2 after leading 2-0 and 3-1 in the third round, beat North Carolina in a shootout after blowing a 3-1 lead in the second half and defeated Providence 3-2 in overtime after trailing 2-1 in the semifinals. In the Carolina match, UCLA trailed in the fifth round of the shootout when Earl Edwards Jr. stopped Glen Long's shot. On Sunday, Edwards again had a chance to extend the shootout against Virginia but Riggs Lennon this time made no mistake.

3. College Cup takes on international flavor.

The face of men's college soccer is changing with more players than ever before being recruited by the country's top programs from aboard. It was evident at the College Cup, which had the biggest international flavor in recent memory.

Pablo Aguilar, who had set up Darius Madison for the winning Virginia goal in the semifinals, hails from Guatemala via IMG Academy. UCLA started three Germans: All-American Leo Stolz, Larry Ndjock, who scored twice in the semifinals, and sophomore utility man Felix Vobejda. The most exciting player at the College Cup -- at least in the semifinals -- was Bruin winger Abu Danladi, a freshman from Ghana via the Right to Dream program. New Zealand U-17 World Cup product Jordan Vale started for UCLA in the semifinals against Providence, whose squad featured two German starters and an English captain, plus a Norwegian, the Friars' leading scorer entering the final, as the lone sub off the bench.

Increasingly, top programs are being forced to scramble as they lose top players early in their careers or before they even step foot on campus. Jordan Allen, Virginia's top freshman on last year's College Cup team, left after one semester to sign with Real Salt Lake. In each of the last two years, Paul Arriola and John Requejo Jr. signed letters of intent with UCLA only to turn pro with Tijuana in Mexico.

TRIVIA. Since NCAA seeded 16 teams in 2003, No. 16 Virginia (2014) and Indiana (2012) are lowest seeds to win national title. Unseeded UC Santa Barbara won in 2006, beating UCLA.

Dec. 14 in Cary, N.C.
Virginia 0 UCLA 0 (Virginia wins 4-2 on penalties).
Virginia -- C.Brown. M.Brown. S.Sullivan, K.Sullivan, Thomsen, Wharton, Aguilar, Corriveau, Rozhansky, Zinkham, Madison. Subs: Lennon, Foss, Bird, Hayward.
UCLA -- Edwards, Vobejda, Contreras, Amick, Gasper, Howe, Stolz, Iloski, Ndjock, Tusaazemajja, Danladi. Subs: Raygoza, Chavez, Vale, Zerboni, Simmons.
Att.: 8,015.
Shootout:
Virginia
-- Wharton, goal; Thomsen, saved; Hayward, goal; Foss, goal; Lennon, goal.
UCLA -- Iloski, goal; Zerboni, hits crossbar; Raygoza, hits crossbar; Ndjock, goal.

Dec. 12 in Cary, N.C.
Virginia 1 UMBC 0. Goal: Madison (Aguilar) 5.
Virginia -- C.Brown. M.Brown. S.Sullivan, K.Sullivan, Thomsen, Wharton, Aguilar, Corriveau, Rozhansky, Zinkham, Madison. Subs: Bird, Lennon, Foss, Hayward.
UMBC -- Heavner, Fernandez, Williams, Ballo, Becker, Scott, Kansaye, Hauck, Ho, Harris, Banjo. Subs: DiCesare, Pratt, Caltabiano.
Att.: 9,502.

Dec. 12 in Cary, N.C.
UCLA 3 Providence 2 (OT). Goals: Ndjock 43, Ndjock (Danladi) 81, own goal 105; Steeves (Ballenthin) 65, Steeves (Ballenthin) 74.
UCLA -- Edwards, Vobejda, Contreras, Amick, Gasper, Simmons, Stolz, Iloski, Vale, Tusaazemajja, Danladi. Subs: Howe, Ndjock, Zerboni, Raygoza, Chavez.
Providence -- Broome, Adler, Ballenthin, Bialy, Jecewiz, Towler, D.Machado, Neustadter, F.Machado, Gressel, Steeves. Sub: Naglestad.
Att.: 9,502.
17 comments about "Men's College Cup: Cautious Virginia romps".
  1. Didi P, December 14, 2014 at 5:18 p.m.

    Ugly

  2. James Froehlich, December 14, 2014 at 6:46 p.m.

    A real advertisement for college soccer! Great job, George! Bruce is soooooo proud.

  3. James Froehlich, December 14, 2014 at 6:50 p.m.

    And tell me again how college soccer is a great tool for player development! Maybe at UCLA but not at UVA.

  4. Jacob Wang, December 14, 2014 at 7:28 p.m.

    The Bruins' 113th national championship in all sports might have to come in women's volleyball

  5. Randy Vogt, December 14, 2014 at 8:13 p.m.

    Three takeaways from the Men's College Cup: Boring. Boring. Boring. I actually fell asleep during the first half.

  6. Rick Estupinan, December 14, 2014 at 9:01 p.m.

    One would think that these college players Would do their best,and win or loose,try their best by playing to the best of their abilities,so they could impress those who are interested in young American talent.But no,they have to play with the mentality of some unscrupulous professionals.It is a shame that a game like this have to be shown on National TV.I Will never waste my time watching a poor boring game like this.It is a pity that the beautiful game was performed by a bunch of thoughtless bums.

  7. Alan Crow, December 15, 2014 at 2:21 a.m.

    Three takeaways:

    1) What everyone knows, but no one has the will to change, is that PK's are a ridiculous way to settle a game. Can anyone with a straight face claim that UVA played a championship caliber game and deserved the win? Might UVA have played with a little more purpose if PK's were not an option for them to get a win? This was about as much of an undeserved win as one could imagine, and as the previous poster noted, play of this kind will turn off interest in soccer.

    2)Referees are reluctant to whistle a foul in the penalty area, as they want to avoid directly impacting the outcome. Well, guess what - when you fail to whistle an obvious and blatant foul, you just affected the outcome for the team that, according to the rules, should have been awarded that advantage. A takedown of a UCLA player in UVA's penalty area during OT, would have been whistled on any other area of the field. That was an easy call in real time, and slow motion on TV only confirmed what the referee failed to call. (Incidentally, that play did come down UVA's right side.)

    3)The term "unlucky" continues to be alive and well in soccer. 15 shots usually earns at least one goal.

  8. martha anderson, December 15, 2014 at 7:39 a.m.

    This was the most disgusting game of keep-away
    I have seen in a very long time. I would not allow
    my grandson to see it! The Va. coach should
    be black-balled for such a horrible display! No
    wonder America has difficulty fielding great
    players with this insulting coach! Where did he
    play? Also soccer coaches in the final cup should
    dress like they honor their sport. They looked
    like they were at a training session!! Such a
    sad display all the way around.

  9. Ed Shaw, December 15, 2014 at 8:53 a.m.

    I hate to pile on but boring and ugly are the right words. UVA was even worse in the quarterfinals when they were lucky to tie Georgetown in the last 52 seconds and then advance on penalty kicks. Hopefully college soccer won't adopt their bunker mentality.

  10. Kent James, December 15, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

    I missed the game, and from what everyone says, I was fortunate to do so. But the headline has huge problems; a "cautious" team cannot, by definition, "romp". Sounds like "squeaks by" or "survives" would have been more appropriate.

  11. Kevin Sims, December 15, 2014 at 10:17 a.m.

    Never thought I would see a PK victory referred to as a "romp". I am a former UVA player and attended the match. I can not gloat or prideful boast. That said, UCLA failed to net a goal. The PK solution must be eliminated. Start OT 9 v 9, reducing each team by one player each 5 minutes until a goal results ... giving some form of a team solution to a team sport ... and I suspect a rather riveting and exhilirating time for all involved.

  12. Alan Crow, December 16, 2014 at 4:03 a.m.

    Kevin has a good answer. That is done in some tournaments, and no one goes away muttering.

  13. beautiful game, December 16, 2014 at 5:59 p.m.

    Yawner; neither side deserved to win after playing not to lose.

  14. beautiful game, December 17, 2014 at 10:59 a.m.

    K.S. you have a point; 9 v 9 in two 10 minute OT, instead of 5', would be a better solution to PKs.

  15. Kent James, December 17, 2014 at 8:04 p.m.

    I like the idea of starting OT with fewer players. Too often OT is simply a continuation of the game without changing the dynamic (and when two teams are playing not to lose, no one wants to see that continued). Have any professional (or upper level amateur) leagues ever done that? Anyone know how it worked out? (I"m assuming the tournaments Kevin is talking about are Youth tournaments).

  16. Randy Vogt, December 18, 2014 at 6:24 a.m.

    Yes, Kent, I've officiated a youth tournament where OT started with fewer players on the field, 7v7. The OT became a series of breakaways with little resemblance to soccer. Tourney made mistake of playing full OTs rather than golden goal so we wound up tied and went to a shootout anyway. And with so many breakaways at 7v7, DOGSO could easily happen and if ref sends off a player, the game is abandoned. So OT needs to be at least 8v8. Tournament dropped this experiment after a few years. I've never seen any adult games use this tiebreaker though.

  17. Kent James, December 22, 2014 at 11:59 p.m.

    Thanks, Randy. I guess ideally, you'd shorten the field when you reduced the numbers of players, but of course, that makes it more complicated. My preference would be to have kicks from the mark, but have the mark be the top of the 18 (or even the top of the circle), so that only really good shots went in (so true heroes would emerge) rather than the shooter being expected to score, so that only 'goats' are created.

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