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Weekend Soccer Update: The Final Countdown

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We're just over a week away from the first round of the ACC soccer tournament, and there's still work to be done for Louisville.

Will Vitalis was one of five seniors honored Friday night.
Will Vitalis was one of five seniors honored Friday night.
Jeff Reinking, Louisville Athletics

Louisville soccer is in a much better place right now than it was two weeks ago. Since an October 10 loss at Notre Dame, the Cards are 3-0-1, with the tie coming last friday at Lynn Stadium in their final ACC home match of the season against Clemson. The Clemson match was the marquee meeting of last week, but Louisville also dominated in a 3-0 win over Evansville on Tuesday.

You can find the Evansville highlights, recap and interviews here and the Clemson highlights, recap and interviews here.

Head Coach Ken Lolla was pleased with the way Louisville played against Clemson, though he was obviously disappointed to not get three points in a game in which a win would have certainly retained full control of the division. The good news, though, is that Syracuse drew with that pesky N.C. State Wolfpack on Saturday, leaving the Atlantic Division just as unsettled as it was heading into the weekend. Here's a breakdown of where Louisville is (full ACC standings here) and what you need to know going into the final week of the regular season:

1. Syracuse- 4-2-1
1. Louisville- 4-2-1
1. Clemson- 4-2-1
2. Wake-  4-3-0

The #1 and #2 seeds in the ACC tournament go to the two division winners, with eight other seeds awarded to qualifying teams to round out a 10-team field. Because of Louisville's victory over the Orange just over a week ago, they're still in a position to claim a top seed. In the event of a three way tie among common opponents (SYR, LOU and CLEM have all played each other, making them common opponents), a points system (three for a win, one for a draw) is comprised among the three teams using their head-to-head results. Here's how those standings would look right now:

1. Louisville- 4 points (win vs. SYR, draw vs. CLEM)
2. Syracuse- 3 points (win vs. CLEM, loss at LOU) 
3. Clemson- 1 point (draw at LOU, loss vs. SYR)

After much tie-breaking (full ACC rules are here), Louisville still controls their own destiny and can clinch what will likely be the #2 seed in the ACC tournament with a victory on Saturday at Wake Forest. A win at Wake would ensure at least a three-way tie at the top of the Atlantic, which would initiate the common opponent points breakdown listed immediately above.

Obviously, this could all get much easier with Syracuse or Clemson losses or draws. It could also become a migraine headache if Louisville loses or draws at Wake (the Deacs are only one point back in the division), but we'll cross that God-forsaken bridge if it comes. Notre Dame will likely claim the #1 seed with a 5-1-1 ACC record and their last conference game coming against lowly Pittsburgh this Saturday.

For now, that's where we stand. We'll re-visit this potentially complex situation next Monday when the regular season is over and we are left to wait for postseason soccer to commence. Until then, let's move on to the week ahead for Louisville, who jumped to #18 in the RPI this week (full RPI here).

SIU Edwardsville - Home - Tomorrow night, 7:30 p.m. 
RPI: 151
Record: 4-7-2
Louisville Preview and Notes

SIUE played Louisville close last season at Cardinal Park, as the Cards only won 1-0. Edwardsville actually still holds a 5-4 advantage in the all-time series between the two sides, so Louisville's crusade to right the history books will continue tomorrow night. The game is clearly a should-win for Louisville, but SIUE posed some problems last season and obviously can't be overlooked. Maintaining good form and continuing to build some momentum will be the objective here as the Cards will need to be playing well heading into the weekend.

Wake Forest - Away - Saturday night, 7:00 p.m. 
RPI: 39
Record: 9-6-0

Here we go again with another pivotal conference match to close out the regular season. We've already covered at length what a win will mean for Louisville, but it's important to recognize that this will be a difficult game against a program that is always competitive. The Demon Deacons have lost two straight to Louisville in their brief all-time series (Louisville is 2-1-0), but are an impressive 8-3-0 at home this season. Louisville will have to play well to get a critical ACC victory and a good RPI builder this weekend.

Finally, it's Goal of the Game time. There's only one point to be awarded this week, but three goals to choose from after Louisville's 3-0 victory over Evansville on Tuesday. Andrew Brody will get the point this week after a good amount of work led to his relatively easy finish. The point crowds the top a bit more, which is now a three-way tie. This is a battle that could easily require either a change to the points system or postseason goals. Let's shoot for the second one. Here are the full standings.

T1. Tim Kubel - 2 GOTGs (Game 6 at UK, Game 9 at NC State)
T1. Ben Strong - 2 GOTGs (Game 11 at Notre Dame, Game 12 vs. FGCU) 
T1. Andrew Brody - 2 GOTGs (Game 1 vs. Maryland, Game 14 vs. Evansville)
T2. Daniel Keller - 1 GOTG (Game 7 vs. Pitt) 
T2. Will Vitalis - 1 GOTG (Game 4 vs. Duke) 
T2. Nolan Moore - 1 GOTG (Game 5 at B.C.)
T2. Jerry Ramirez - 1 GOTG (Game 13 vs. Syracuse)

Another week, another batch of critical soccer matches. That's what the end of the regular season is all about, right? See you next week for the first-ever postseason edition of the Weekend Soccer Update, where we'll be able to finally emerge from a post-FSU victory haze and break down what the ACC Men's Soccer Tournament field will look like.