Oregon State Outlasts Defiant Duquesne

No. 12 Oregon State overcame jetlag and an unrelenting Duquesne squad to squeeze out a 3-2 victory on top the Bluff. A Dukes penalty on 89 minutes ended up being the difference, a decision that was greeted harshly by a dedicated student section backed by members of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ Steel Army. Duquesne keeper Sam Frymier did everything in his power to keep the Beavers away from a third goal, but his save bounced right back to Timmy Mueller who drove home the rebound. Beavers head coach Steve Simmons will feel lucky that his nationally-ranked team remains undefeated (4-0) on the season.

The Dukes matched any challenge Oregon State presented for most of the match. A sluggish Beavers defense missing the toughness that shut out their first three opponents also helped the underdogs stay competitive.

Talisman Jordan Jones took the initiative on 27 minutes to break open the reserved opening stages for the Pac-12 program. Jones followed up his initial shot that hit the post to finish at point blank range. Duquesne went down a minute later to equalize. Oregon State’s nightmare in defense began when they couldn’t clear away the corner allowing Colin Phillips to take the chance.

Leading goal scorer Jones completed his brace right at the start of the second half. The sophomore sent a missile into the back of Frymier’s net on 50 minutes from just inside the penalty area. The captain Phillips wouldn’t be out-staged and answered with a double of his own. Beavers keeper Nolan Wirth left his cage on 58 minutes and the Ontarian capitalized on the empty goal. Phillips continues to be the main source of offense for the Dukes contributing 4 of their 5 goals.

Oregon State started to assert their dominance in the final minutes. Frymier made a powerful save on Mueller on 84 minutes that kept the loud student crowd hopeful. That hope soured when referee Pete Lubinsky deemed that the contact on a Beavers attacker was enough to award a penalty. Mueller rescued the result to keep his team’s no. 12 ranking intact.

The match completed the first day of the Duquesne Invitational. Cleveland State edged Cornell also on a penalty that came in overtime. Oregon State will play this Sunday for the chance to take the trophy with them on the 3,000 mile flight. They face the Ivy Leaguers at 11 a.m. while Duquesne hosts Cleveland State at 3 p.m.

Women Fall Late To West Coast Opposition 

Duquesne women’s soccer couldn’t compound on a successful trip to New Jersey last weekend and lost 2-1 in overtime to UC-Santa Barbara. Mallory Hromatko’s curling strike on 97 minutes made the journey east worth while for the Gauchos.

A scoreless affair picked up with 5 minutes remaining in the second half. Pitt transfer Malea Fabean changed that when she opened the scoring for the Dukes. Santa Cruz charged right back as Chace Schornstein found the equalizer that forced Extra Time.

The loss means a developing Duquesne program drops to 4-2 on the season. They will want a quick bounce back against Cincinnati this Sunday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

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We Need You Wembley

The League Cup is very important. This is a statement that has supporters of big clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City laughing in their seats. They have much more pressing manners at hand such as winning the league or beating Barcelona in the Champions League. However, for the clubs beneath them like Tottenham the League Cup is one of the few chances available to win silverware in an increasing monopolized landscape. Only two or three clubs have a realistic shot at winning the Premier League anymore and Spurs are not one of them. They need to look elsewhere to add trophies to an increasingly barren display case. Spurs have set themselves up in prime position for their first cup final since 2009 and should do everything in their power to bring a supposedly meaningless League Cup back to White Hart Lane. While the League Cup may not have the historical significance of the FA Cup, a trophy is still a trophy dammit. At this moment, Spurs are in need of physical evidence that things are heading in the right direction.

A defeatist attitude is starting to find its way into the club. It starts with the supporters and is working its way into the minds of the players. We even have a word to describe this, “Spursy.” Before the match even kicks off, fans expect something bad to happen and when it inevitably does they simply chalk it up to unfortunate luck. I know I’m guilty of this. Each matchday I slip on one of my Tottenham jerseys reluctantly, hoping just not to receive it in the face. We get hammered by big clubs, shit the bed against small ones. It’s a never-ending cycle that us supporters have grown to accept.

The deeper the team progresses in the League Cup though the more it looks like the club can break free of these feelings. Yesterday, Spurs put in a complete performance against Newcastle United, winning 4-0 and breezing into the semifinals. Even better news, they drew League One side Sheffield United with a place in the final on the line. Unless things go drastically wrong, Spurs will be going to Wembley once again.

The first couple months of the Mauricio Pochettino regime have been rocky, but this cup run will give supporters confidence that the ship is heading in the right direction. How could you not have faith in a man that won a trophy in his first opportunity? Pochettino is still trying to bring large-scale system changes to the club, but European football is a result driven business. A trophy would ease the pressure for the considerable future and ensure supporters that he is the man that can bring Champions League to the club.

Provided everything goes as expected against Sheffield United, Spurs still have a huge obstacle in between them and the League Cup. A trip to the final will see them paired up against either Chelsea or Liverpool, two teams that have torn them to shreds recently. In the last 6 matches they’ve played against these two clubs they’ve been outscored a combined 20-1. However, I can’t think of a better way to reverse our fortunes than by knocking off one of our conquerors and lifting a trophy at the same time. It would be a notice to the big clubs that Spurs are on their way to closing the gap.

It is also not as if this is the only thing left to play for in our season. Tottenham are just 4 points back of the 4th Champions League spot and are in the Europa League Round of 32. Champions League football has been the dream for a while now and a Leauge Cup victory would provide the momentum for that late season push.

The League Cup is not pointless. It actually could have a great effect on the future of this club. It can springboard further success on grander stages. Much simpler however, it’s a chance to bring silverware back into the fold. We the supporters must believe. We can’t think of this potential cup final as another chance to get exposed by Chelsea. No more defeating ourselves before the match even starts. With the favorable draw, the soccer gods gave us a golden opportunity. Time to take it and run with it all the way into Wembley.

Until Next Fall

The 2014 college soccer season came to a close without a storybook sunset. A spotless blue sky arched over the towering North Carolina pines in the distance. The midday sun beamed onto the field at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC, detailing each individual blade of grass. The temperature rose into the 50s and sent coats underneath the seats. Mother Nature summoned everything she had left to produce one last beautiful day for the beautiful game. It was a proper goodbye before the soccer passionate packed it up and headed indoors for the winter.

At the same time, the University of Virginia’s men’s soccer team were saying hello to their 7th College Cup. They defeated the UCLA Bruins in the final 4-2 on penalty kicks after the Cavaliers’ head coach George Gelnovatch saw his players execute his gameplan flawlessly. In order to stifle UCLA’s quick passing, the Cavaliers spent the majority of the game with 10, and at times even 11, men behind the ball. Virginia wanted penalty kicks from the beginning. The Cavaliers bend but don’t break tactics frustrated UCLA. The Bruins lost their composure and squandered clear chances. When the match came down to PKs, the Bruins already defeated themselves mentally. Two spot kicks rattled off the crossbar and the Cavaliers went back to Charlottesville with the trophy.

Yet for this cup final being a battle to the end between two of collegiate soccer’s powerhouse programs, match attendance barely crept past 8,000. To give this number some context, the average home attendance for Division I-FCS football is around 8,000 as well. While it might be unfair to compare college soccer to the moneymaking schemes of college football and college basketball, it still brings up a much more important question. Where exactly does collegiate soccer stand within the American soccer system?

If you even just have a passing interest in the United States men’s national team or the MLS, then you’ve probably heard the conversation about what American soccer needs to do in order to compete with the world’s best. These conversations however focus almost exclusively on expanding the professional game, while college soccer is left out of this dialogue. The MLS’s Homegrown Player Rule is making the leap from youth academies to the pros a more appealing option than going to college and maintaining amateur status for another four years. Europe is also beginning to notice soccer’s increase in popularity in the states and has started to take more kids overseas. College soccer is in jeopardy of becoming only a chance for student athletes to live out the final moments of their competitive soccer careers. Stepping-stones into the professional game are being found elsewhere and college soccer seems to exist outside of the American soccer pyramid.

So how can it be brought back into the fold? College soccer needs to look more attractive and student bodies around the country can play a big role in accomplishing this. The lazy Sunday atmosphere that accompanies college matches won’t cut it anymore. We need to get loud and show these players we care. Soccer is starting to build large followings on college campuses. Access to European matches is easier than it’s ever been. Students are picking clubs and learning more about the sport each day. This easy access has made us picky though. Why try to brave the cold and wind when we can watch the world’s top talent on our computer screens? This is a particular problem at my school, the University of Pittsburgh. Matchdays see huge gaps of empty bleachers at Ambrose Urbanic Field. Maybe this is because of specific circumstances related to my school like Cardiac Hill and indifference in general to our mediocre athletic programs. Still, I attended games at 10 schools this season and Duquesne was the only one that had a decent student turnout.

I’ve realized that the only way to develop an understanding of the game’s organic flow is to see it in person. Watching the game on a computer doesn’t show how players utilize space or the communication it takes to construct an organized back line. If you enjoy watching the Barclays Premier League on NBC and are looking to take this interest to the next step, then supporting your school’s team is the logical choice.

I’m also not going to act like I don’t know what us college students love to do. We like to get drunk and make asses of ourselves. Well, I’m presenting a way that we can do this and be constructive at the same time. Soccer support is all about being as obnoxious as possible. Drums, chants, and costumes are a few ideas to get your student section started. If we come together and give our schools legitimate fanbases, then young players might start believing that college soccer will prepare themselves for the atmospheres of the MLS and top leagues in Europe.

A spike in student turnout will help shine light on two very important things college soccer is doing to promote the sport in America. The college level is the first chance that European tactics can be infused into the American style of play. Many collegiate coaches rely on recruits from Germany and England to give their stateside players a deeper understanding of the game. Soccer pervades every aspect of European culture and kids learn how to play within a system from a young age. The American style, based on speed and individual skill, melds with the systematic adaptability of the Europeans to create a comprehensive product.

The other thing that college soccer is doing right is allowing this mixture of skill and system to be seen by impressionable eyes. Tickets to matches are free almost anywhere. It is a great way for the family to spend a Saturday. I was amazed by how fixated these young children were to the actual play. For these little soccer stars the college athletes are role models. They look on analyzing the proper technique and try to emulate it in the backyard.

Later when I look back on the 2014 college soccer season, my lasting impression will not be of Riggs Lennon’s Virginia teammates rushing the field to congratulate him for slotting home the decisive penalty in the College Cup final. Instead, it will come from a mid-season match between Saint Louis and George Mason in Fairfax, VA. A group of ten-year-old girls dressed up in their soccer uniforms unfold a large George Mason banner. Their tiny arms struggle to hold the banner up in the air and large chunks drag along the bleachers. Yet the girls are relentless in their passion for the game in front of them. They start a call and response. “GEORGE!”…… “MASON!” A boys youth team on the other side of the stands joins in. Together they make the only noise in the park. When next fall rolls around, take inspiration from these little girls and do your part in making sure the college level is a vital part of soccer becoming America’s sport of the future.