In the past two weeks, the Wake Forest men’s soccer team has pushed through in the NCAA College Cup, the NCAA soccer tournament.
Wake Forest has advanced through both the second and third rounds to find themselves facing off against Stanford in the fourth round, the elite eight.
On Sunday, Nov. 22, The Demon Deacons found themselves facing off against a tough local team, the Charlotte 49ers, in front of a crowd of 2,700.
The 49ers had to grind out a tough 2-1 win versus a very skillful Radford team in the round of 32.
This past Sunday, the 49ers came out with a fierce hunger and were challenging every ball.
Although the first half was without goals, it wasn’t lacking any chances. The Demon Deacons were outshot in the first half by the 49ers 6-5 and Charlotte was threatening to score.
An uncharacteristic and somewhat nervous defense gave up a few too many chances and this only helped the 49ers gain confidence.
Throughout the game the 49ers looked to frustrate Wake Forest by racking up fouls, and to an extent it worked.
Then, partway through the second period things started to settle down for Wake Forest and the Demon Deacons gained control of the game.
Chances came but nothing was made of them until the 83rd minute when Ian Harkes got the ball from Thomas Haws, subsequently crossing the ball into the box where Jon Bakero tipped the ball over the reach of the keeper and into the net.
The next seven minutes saw Wake Forest dispel wave after wave of Charlotte attack with a great collective defensive effort to see out the game.
“We survived,” coach Bobby Muuss said of the tean’s win. “[The game was] probably one of the sloppiest games we’ve played all year, but ultimately we survive and advanced.”
The next round was played a week later on Sunday, Nov. 29th, against No. 16 Indiana. In front of a crowd of almost 3,200, the Demon Deacons were put on the back foot by the Hoosiers. In the first half, no goals were scored but the Hoosiers outshot the Demon Deacons 4-1 while hitting the post twice.
The Wake Forest defense was looking much stronger than the previous game, but at the expense of the offense. A key component of this lack of attacking threats came down to Jack Harrison having an off day and Hoosier freshman defensive standout Andrew Gutman shutting down the Deacon offense.
In the second half, Wake Forest began to regain some of its attacking prowess and scored when they needed it the most.
Ian Harkes again came up with a huge assist, as the ball fell to his feet in the 88th minute. He chipped it to Ricky Greensfelder, who was sitting just inside the box to the left of the net. He took a touch to settle the ball and thundered the ball into the upper right corner, using a defender as screen. Wake Forest was then able to see out the game in the last few minutes.
“We keep saying it wasn’t pretty, but we’re in the quarter finals,” said head coach Bobby Muuss after the game. “The last couple of teams that we’ve played have been very results oriented, confident teams that do a very good job of imposing themselves on you by the way they play, but our guys continued to grind.”The next team on the campaign, No. 8 Stanford, is a severely underrated team. For starters, their star forward Jordan Morris has 10 goals and three assists in 15 games.
Why so few games? He was training and playing with the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team, where he’s scored one goal in seven appearances. Beware, because Stanford are not just a one trick pony, with nine other players contributing to goals while being unbeaten on the road.
The game is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 and will see the winner advance to the semifinals in Kansas City, KS.
Wake Forest will need to pick up their offense if they wish to get by an organized Stanford defense.