The 10th seeded U of L men's soccer team (14-5-1) defeated Northwestern (13-5-4) 2-1 Sunday evening in Louisville in the third round of the NCAA tournament. In the 86th minute, Zionsville, Indiana native Dylan Mares slipped through two Northwestern fullbacks and deflected a shot off another defender for the game-winning goal, sending the U of L men's soccer team to their third straight Elite Eight.
In the first half, the Cardinals struck early with a goal by freshman Marlon Hairston in the 2nd minute, set up by senior defender Greg Cochrane's cross from the left wing. Northwestern answered two minutes later when Jarrett Baughman knocked in a loose ball in the box following a corner kick that Louisville couldn't clear.
After the quick start, scoring opportunities were harder to come by throughout the rest of the first half. Louisville struggled to connect passes in the middle of the field and Northwestern was comfortable playing possession and sending one or two players into their counterattack when U of L coughed the ball up near midfield. Neither team threatened to score and the half ended in a 1-1 tie.
Both teams ended the first half tied with 4 shots on goal and 2 corner kicks and Louisville was called for 2 more fouls than Northwestern.
In the second half, Louisville used midfielder Ryan Smith (Louisville St. X) and defender Greg Cochrane as outlets on the right and left wings respectively to attack Northwestern from outside-in and tested Northwestern keeper Tyler Miller with a couple shots on goal. Midway through the half, Cochrane had a shot that just missed the left post but due to the deceptive angle, several fans thought the ball had gone in and the pep band even started playing the Louisville fight song.
After watching eighty minutes of a tied game, one could sense the tension and anxiety building at Cardinal Park and the fans who braved the cold temps were rewarded when Mares worked his magic to set up the game-winner. The defensive plays that set up the last goal were just as important, though.
Capitalizing on an intercepted Louisville pass, Northwestern set up their counterattack and sent the ball to an open attacker's feet on the left wing near the end-line, but Louisville junior Andrew "Peppa" Farrell (Atherton HS) flew to the ball and sent it out of bounds while avoiding a foul on a perfectly-timed slide tackle. It was a brilliant moment of individual skill for the Big East Defensive Player of the Year and displayed the talent that has some folks buzzing Farrell could be taken #1 overall in the next MLS Draft.
On the ensuing Northwestern throw-in, another Louisville tackle dispossessed the ball, initiating the counterattack that produced the own goal.
Both teams ended the game tied with 9 shots, 3 saves and 3 corners each but Louisville had a 5-4 advantage in shots on goal. No cards were handed out but Louisville was called for 8 fouls to Northwestern's 3, which was indicative of the Cardinals' aggressiveness.
On the other side of Louisville's region, #2 seed Maryland pummeled Coastal Carolina 5-1, which means the 10th seeded Cardinals will travel to College Park next Saturday. Louisville will be seeking revenge as the Terrapins beat the Cards 3-0 at home in pouring rain in what was both team's season opener on August 26th.
According to the tournament bracket, Saturday's Elite Eight matchup with Maryland is scheduled to kick off at 5pm ET.