Louisville men's soccer travels to College Park with retribution in mind tonight. After a couple preseason exhibition tests, U of L traveled to Maryland in August and were handed a disappointing 3-0 loss in what was both squads' opening match. The Terrapins had revenge to exact of their own that night after the Cards ended their season 4-2 in the third round of the NCAA tournament last year. But tonight, it's Louisville's turn.
The #10 seed Cardinals (14-5-1) will play the underdog role at #2 Maryland (19-1-2), but both teams know what to expect from each other and this will come down to execution and effort. Don't be surprised if this game's won in the final five minutes of the match. If you've been following this team for a couple years, you shouldn't be.
WHY LOUISVILLE WILL WIN Revenge factor, tournament experience and individual skills of central defender Andrew Farrell (Atherton), leftback Greg Cochrane and forward Dylan Mares. All three are future MLS players and their playmaking abilities will set up multiple scoring opportunities for the Cards.
Look for Cochrane to serve as a defensive outlet on the left wing, pushing the ball forward on counters and connecting with Mares and freshman Marlon Hairston in the attacking third of the field. If Maryland keys on Cochrane early, then Louisville will need a big effort from midfielder Kyle Smith (Louisville St. Xavier) who will likely serve the same role as Cochrane on the right flank.
The key for Louisville is putting lots of pressure on Maryland's attackers and disrupting what the Terrapins want to do on offense with hard tackles and closing down on the ball as quickly as possible. This is the type of defense U of L likes to play anyways and it's a style that should give Maryland fits.
Maryland has a strong soccer following at Ludwig Field where they're 12-0-2 on the year. The Cards have to avoid allowing an early goal to Maryland and giving their fans a reason to get rowdy behind goalkeeper Mike Mauro's net.
Several Louisville players have been to this stage of the tournament before. They've beaten Maryland in College Park and they know how to handle the pressure of big moments in games like this. Unfortunately, so does Maryland.
WHY MARYLAND WILL WIN Big home field advantage, tournament experience and talented goal scorers in Patrick Mullins (15 goals), Schillo Tshuma (8) and John Stertzer (7).
Mullins is the primary dangerman--scoring 15 goals tends to make you a marked man--but Louisville will have their hands full trying to stop Stertzer and Tshuma from testing Mauro with shots on goal. The Terrapins also have a local connection in junior forward Sunny Jane (Louisville Trinity) who scored 2 goals in Maryland's 5-1 thrashing of Coastal Carolina last weekend. They're loaded with goal-scoring talent.
The key for Maryland will be putting shots on target and scoring multiple goals. Their defense is lacking a key player due to injury and they haven't shut a team out since mid-October. Louisville should find the net at least once, but if Maryland scores an early goal and gets momentum rolling with a packed house, it could spell trouble for Louisville.
Also, Maryland hasn't lost a single game at home this season and they've been to this quarterfinals stage of the NCAA tournament in four of the last five seasons.
The Terrapins have dangerous goal scorers, an improved defense and an experienced squad. It's going to be a battle.
Kickoff time: 5pm ET
Where: Ludwig Field; College Park, Maryland
Last meeting: Maryland won 3-0 at home on Aug 26, 2012
Bold prediction: Andrew Farrell scores off a corner kick
Score prediction: 3-2 Maryland