Syracuse wins national title, 7-6 on PKs
The agony, splendor, despair and glory of a penalty shootout was on full display at WakeMed Soccer Park on Monday night, as Syracuse defeated Indiana after 110 minutes of back-and-forth soccer was followed by eight penalty rounds in the national championship game.
Here's a shot-by-shot recap of the shootout:
|Wittenbrink ✅||Boselli ✅|
|Henderlong ❌||Kocevski ❌|
|Mihalic ✅||Calov ✅|
|Sarver ✅||Singelmann ✅|
|Maher ✅||Biros ✅|
|Bezerra ✅||Rauch ✅|
|Helmer ✅||Johnson ✅|
|Goumballe ❌||Sinclair ✅|
Both goalkeepers made their presence known early, meeting the second penalty they faced and diverting them away. What followed was several rounds of textbook penalty kicks: blasted into top corners, lashed into side nettings and rolled past keepers who guessed the wrong way. On the third sudden-death kick, Syracuse keeper and College Cup Most Outstanding Defensive Player Russell Shealy stuffed Maouloune Goumballe, setting up a decisive and championship-winning spot kick from team captain Amferny Sinclair.
A fitting way for the Orange to win the program's first national championship and a storybook end to a season that began with Syracuse picked to finish closer to the bottom of the ACC and no one even considering this team a factor in the title picture. Four months and a school-record 19 wins later, the Orange stand alone atop the men's college soccer mountain.
Forward Nathan Opoku was central to the win, once again involved in multiple goals during regulation as he was in the semifinal win over Creighton. His goal was a flash of his technical brilliance, beating two defenders with quick feet before curling one top corner with his left foot. Later he turned another defender before looping one into the path of Curt Calov who slotted home the second goal. Opoku's two goals and two assists in the College Cup earned him Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors.
The Hoosiers leave Cary, North Carolina as runners-up for the second time in three seasons. The defeat was even more agonizing after they battled back from a one-goal deficit on two occasions throughout regular time. The chances missed and defensive mistakes made will be replaying in their minds all offseason, but this team — this program — will undoubtedly be heard from again in the near future. The wait for the ninth star above the IU crest will have to wait another year.
In the meantime, the national championship trophy will be headed to a brand new home in upstate New York.
Tied 2-2 after OT, PK shootout upcoming
A penalty shootout will be required to decide the 2022 Men's College Cup final with the score tied at 2. The last few moments have become real chippy here at WakeMed, as both teams searched for a dramatic winner.
GOAL 80: Syracuse 2-2 Indiana: A dream strike by Herbert Endeley to even things up! After a poor first touch at the top of the box, Endeley unleashes a rocket off his right foot into the top corner. We're all tied up at 2 and we've seen some spectacular goals here tonight. Hopefully it isn't the last.
😩 Inches away from an own goal!
We finally have a chance to breathe. A frantic first 45 minutes are in the books of the 2022 national title game, and it could not have been further from what I expected. Both teams were wide open and going for it in the attack, going blow-for-blow trying to find the opening goal.
My first takeaway from the action is actually a question: is this sustainable? For either team? Both played the first half as if it were the second. It provided some supremely entertaining soccer with 17 total shots, seven on target and three goals (all in a 10-minute period!), but I have a hard time seeing the pace of this first period lasting through the second 45. After nearly 400 minutes of shutout soccer, the Hoosiers finally conceded a goal, then did so again just minutes later. I have to believe coach Yeagley will be telling his team to tighten up the loose ends in defense and play the game that has got them to this point.
As for Syracuse, the Orange holds the advantage on the scoreboard but looks like they have no intention of holding its offense back in the name of defensive solidity. Syracuse's high defensive line has been under constant attack by Indiana, who tried to play their speedy forwards in behind on several occasions. It'll be interesting to see if coach McIntyre adjusts the defense to mitigate that threat or if he chooses to stick with that tactic.
Here's a look at stats at halftime:
😱 Syracuse back in the lead!
GOAL 33' Syracuse 2-1 Indiana: Just a minute later the Orange is back on top! Nathan Opoku was involved once again, beating a defender on the left side of the area and chipping a ball into the box, where Curt Calov controlled and poked it through with his right foot.
🤩 Volleyed finish evens the score!
GOAL 32' Syracuse 1-1 Indiana: A sweet finish off a second ball from a corner kick for Patrick McDonald. The Hoosiers swung a corner into the box that bounced around and fell perfectly for McDonald to lash home with his right foot. It's just what the Hoosiers deserve, as they have played some spectacular attacking soccer all night but especially in response to the Syracuse opener.
🚨 Opoku magic gives Syracuse the lead!
GOAL 24' Syracuse 1-0 Indiana: A fancy bit of footwork by Nathan Opoku is followed by a picture-perfect strike into the top left corner of the goal. Indiana goalkeeper JT Harms was rooted to his spot, and the Orange lead after being the first team in the NCAA tournament to score on the Hoosiers defense.
How to watch the Men's College Cup final
When: 6 p.m. ET
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina
How to watch: ESPNU or ESPN+
Previewing Syracuse vs. Indiana
The 2022 DI men's soccer national championship will see history made, one way or another. Standing in one corner is one of men's college soccer's benchmark programs in Indiana, which can equal Saint Louis as the winningest program in the sport's history should it win its ninth star tonight. In the opposite corner is Syracuse, a program on the rise that has never reached the title game and is looking to win its first national championship.
Do not expect this match to be a high-scoring shootout, though. Both teams have reached this stage by relying on their stellar defensive units. The Hoosiers enter the final on a streak of four consecutive clean sheets in NCAA tournament play. Led by a back four that reached this stage in 2020 and a goalkeeper who has fit in like a glove, Indiana will not be easily penetrated. If the Hoosiers manage to take the lead, perhaps through leading scorer Ryan Wittenbrink, they will be more than happy to let their defense guide them to victory.
The Orange also boasts one of the best defenses in college soccer this season, with a goals-against average of .667 across the entire season. Unlike Indiana though, opposing teams have found a way through the Syracuse backline throughout the NCAA tournament. The Orange have allowed a goal in three of four tournament matches, including two in the semifinal win over Creighton. Syracuse had the attacking talent to push them through in the form of Nathan Opoku and Levonte Johnson. The tandem has combined for over 20 goals this season and each scored in the semifinal win, with Johnson netting the winner with just five minutes remaining.
I would expect this final to be a slow-building, cagey affair, with perhaps not too many open chances to score in the first half as neither team wants to be the first to make a costly mistake. As the second half drags on and time starts to wind down though, I think the drama will ensue.