For the third consecutive season, No. 3 Georgetown men’s soccer (18-2-1, 8-2 Big East) heads down to Cary, North Carolina to continue their postseason journey. Their opponent in the national semifinal match will be the No. 2 Washington Huskies (17-1-2, 6-1-2), a team full of deadly finishers and capable defenders.
This is a matchup between the only two teams in the NCAA to have made the quarterfinals over the past three consecutive seasons, but this is Washington’s first go in the College Cup. The two last matched up in the 2019 quarterfinals, with the Hoyas coming out on top 2-1.
The Huskies are led by Head Coach Jamie Clark, who has brought Washington to national prominence. Interestingly, Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese was an assistant to Bobby Clark, Jamie’s father, and longtime coach of the Notre Dame men’s soccer team.
In Washington’s quarterfinal matchup against St. Louis, junior midfielder Gio Miglietti scored two goals within five minutes to hand the Billikens their first (and only) loss of the year. This was the sole game in the quarterfinal round that did not go to penalty kicks. The Hoyas were only able to scrape by West Virginia, despite dominating for large chunks of the game
The Huskies’ numbers are impressive. They are tied for 10th in the NCAA with 46 goals scored and are fifth in goals against average (.624) after only conceding 13 goals all year. Interestingly, five of those goals were in games against Oregon St, the No. 1 seed in the tournament that was upset by Clemson in the Elite 8.
The Huskies are obviously dangerous during the run of play, but they are especially deadly off set pieces. In the past 18 games, they have scored 18 goals off a set-piece, including eight off corners, four off free kicks, three off long throws and three off penalty shots.
Once again, sophomore defender Kenny Nielsen and freshman defender Kieran Sargeant (if Daniel Wu is still unable to play) need to be smart and disciplined, avoiding any set pieces near the box.
The Huskies are led up top by junior striker Dylan Teves. Teves has already shown his mettle in the tournament, registering back-to-back hat tricks in the second and third rounds. For his work in the regular season, Teves was named to the All-Pac 12 First Team, a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann trophy, as a first team All-American. Teves leads the team with 12 goals and seven assists on 60 shots. He will pull the trigger at any time and is deadly around the box.
Teves’ running mate is redshirt senior center back Ryan Sailor, who was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team, the All-American First Team, and a MAC Hermann finalist for his work anchoring the Husky backline that has only conceded 13 goals on the season. Sailor is also an offensive weapon, himself, scoring six goals and registering two assists on the year.
Other players to watch include Miglietti, the hero against St. Louis, who has also chipped in 6 goals and two assists as well as junior defender Charlie Ostrem, who had 11 assists and was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Those 11 assists were good for second in the country heading into the postseason.
The key for the Hoyas will be the play of midfielders Dante Polvara and Sean Zawadzki. Both players were recently named MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalists, and the senior Zawadzki was named First Team All-American. Polvara, the junior star, was named to the Second Team. The Huskies will be looking to sustain pressure against the Hoyas, which means that Zawadski, Big East Defensive Player of the Year, will likely need to track back and help hold down the fort on the backline. Meanwhile, Polvara will need to dictate the pace of play, ensuring that the Hoyas wingers and forwards have opportunities to get forward.
Even if the Hoyas are able to get pressure on the Huskies’ defense, they have to face one of the nation’s top goalkeepers. Sophomore goalkeeper Sam Fowler was incredible this season, allowing just 0.66 goals per game (sixth in the nation) and had a .824 save percentage (second in the nation) to go along with eight shutouts.
Simply enough, the Hoyas need to be able to bury their chances. Could this be the game sophomore Chris Hegardt and Kyle Linhares finally get their first goals of the season? Those two will need to be at their best for the Hoyas to have a chance to keep the ball on the Washington side of the field.
Two players to watch for the Hoyas are junior striker Stefan Stojanovic and senior goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis. Stojanovic has yet to score over the last three games despite creating numerous chances for his teammates and burying a PK in the West Virginia game. Look for him to get some shots off early as the Hoyas try to test Fowler in net. Fresh off his heroic turn in the Elite 8 stands Nikopolids in net for the Hoyas. At times, Nikopolidis was rocky during the season but has since become more reliable. Teves and his team are a different animal, however, and Nikopolidis needs to be at his best.
In that quarterfinal game in 2019, Washington actually jumped out to a lead in the fourth minute, as the Huskies were able to score on Tomas Romero. However, the Hoyas staged a comeback with two goals in 4 minutes. Jacob Montes scored on a free kick in the 72nd minute and Derek Dodson put in a goal off a long ball from Rio Hope-Gund. Fowler was in net for that one, allowing both goals and making three saves. Teves came off the bench for that game while Sailor was not yet in the rotation. If their first matchup is any indication, the Hoyas are in for a battle, as the Huskies are keen on revenge and have the firepower to do it.
The game will kick off today at 8:30 p.m. at Wakemed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for live updates of the game and coverage of all winter sports at Georgetown.