Streaming Video Link: Winthrop at Louisville
Your 10th seeded Louisville men's soccer team will start their road to the 2012 College Cup by hosting Winthrop University of Rock Hill, South Carolina on Sunday night at 7pm.
Late Thursday evening, Winthrop (12-8-2) knocked off Southern Methodist University (10-5-5) in penalty kicks after two overtimes and nearly two hours of play in first round action. The win marked Winthrop's first NCAA men's soccer tournament victory in school history.
Without knowing the differences in playing styles, I think this is the preferred result for Louisville. You have a Winthrop team that just flew to Dallas and played 110 minutes of soccer who will now have to turn around and fly to Louisville on Friday (presumably), with just one non-travel day (Saturday) to rest and prepare for Sunday's second round game. Additionally, in taking out SMU, the Eagles eliminated a men's soccer program that had participated in the NCAA tournament 17 of the last 19 years with a 31-22-7 all-time postseason record compared to Winthrop, who are just 1-3-2 now in all-time NCAA tournament play.
Meanwhile, Lousville will have had over two weeks off after dropping their first game of the Big East tournament to Marquette, a match that was played just three days after Halloween.
I think the main concern for Louisville on Sunday will be starting the game with a sense of urgency and making sharp passes in the first half after the extended layoff. Look for the guys to bring a lot of energy in the first fifteen minutes and try to put Winthrop on their heels early.
From the handful of games I was able to watch, this Cardinal team likes to possess the ball for long stretches and put together 12+ passes to build up their scoring opportunities out of the defensive third of the field. They play a pretty agressive high-pressure defense that takes risks at times with the intention of disrupting their opponent's style of play, which should be familiar to Louisville basketball fans.
Offensively, almost every player on the pitch is capable of scoring for Louisville and we can expect defensive players like Andrew Farrell to move forward in the attack quite often. It's a much different look than previous years where goals came from either Colin Rolfe and Nick DeLeon creating magic on the ball up front or by setting up defender Austin Berry for headers off set pieces.
One of Louisville's biggest weaknesses in recent matches has been defending restarts--corner kicks and free kicks. Especially in the final ten minutes of each half when legs start to feel heavy, U of L needs to improve their marking and intensity when defending set pieces.
Just as Louisville did with inserting keeper Mike Mauro after a slow start, Winthrop made a goalkeeping change midway through their season, which helped lead to a 7-2-2 run that culminated with the Eagles winning their conference tournament as a 6 seed. On the other hand, Winthrop has only posted three shutouts on the year and they allow a ton of shots on goal, so this is a team upon which Louisville should score at least one goal in regulation.
Looking at records trends, Louisville is 9-2-1 at home while Winthrop is just 3-5-1 on the road. The weather forecast for Sunday looks clear and should be somewhere in the low 50s for kickoff, so a large crowd is expected which, based on recent history, should be a big advantage for Louisville. If the game goes to overtime, advantage Winthrop. They're now 6-0-1 on the year in OT, which is pretty unreal.
Score Prediction: I think Louisville's tournament experience and defensive pressure will be big factors on Sunday and I like the Cards to pull out a 2-1 win over Winthrop after allowing a late goal.
Bold Prediction: Dylan Mares and Greg Cochrane connect on a goal.
Next Opponent Prediction: 7th seed Marquette
As of Friday, we still don't know whether this game will be streaming online yet. It will almost certainly not be televised from what I've heard. In the past, U of L has made NCAA Tournament games available on CardsTV for free when they're not being broadcast on TV or WatchESPN, so cross your fingers. Or call someone at U of L, if that's how you roll.
Go Cards. Beat Winthrop.