Saturday, March 8, 2014
The Associated Press
CHESTER, Pa. — In this weekend’s College Cup – the Final Four of the NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament – many of the players might feel as if they’re playing on ice when the games begin Friday with temperatures expected in the 20s.
Notre Dame meets New Mexico in the first semifinal before ACC rivals Maryland and Virginia play in the nightcap. The winners advance to Sunday’s national championship game at PPL Park, home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
“What weather conditions?” longtime Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski said Thursday. “We’ve played for about three weeks in this kind of weather. When you’re at the College Cup, it’s a special moment. And I’m sure Friday night everyone will be pretty warm inside.”
This year marks the first time the College Cup will come to PPL Park, an 18,500-seat stadium and the third MLS site to host the event.
“This is one of the great MLS facilities,” Virginia Coach George Gelnovatch said.
“I’ve been here before to see games. They’ve done a great job given the weather conditions. I saw the before-and-after picture of the snow yesterday. Given all of those things, the field looks great.”
Friday’s game will mark the third time Maryland and Virginia meet this season, with the Terrapins beating the Cavaliers 1-0 in the ACC tournament championship last month.
Led by Patrick Mullins, who is first in the nation with 16 goals, the Terps followed their league title with NCAA tournament wins over Providence, UC Irvine and California. This is their eighth trip to the College Cup in the last 15 years.
Under Cirovski, Maryland (16-3-5) has now advanced to at least the round of 16 in each of the past 12 seasons.
Virginia (13-5-5) has long been a powerhouse in men’s soccer. It has won six national championships, with its most recent one coming in 2009, the Cavaliers’ last trip to the College Cup.
Notre Dame is making its first trip to the national semifinals. The Irish have played at PPL Park, having won the Big East championship there last year. They also know of cold weather.
“I’ve got the sun tan oil on,” Notre Dame Coach Bobby Clark said. “It’s minus 2, my wife told me this morning, in South Bend. This is very pleasant.”
Notre Dame (15-1-6) scored a combined 10 goals in previous NCAA tournament wins over Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Michigan State. The Irish face a New Mexico team that is 14-5-2 and coming off three straight NCAA tournament shutouts of George Mason, Penn State and Washington.
Said New Mexico Coach Jeremy Fishbein: “You start out in August and you get some days in the mid-90s, and by the time December rolls around you get some days in the 20s.
“But our guys are prepared for anything.”