Murphy's Law: "Previewing The 2007 Men's College Cup

COMMERCE CITY CO (Exclusive to ColoradoRapids.com)- Rapids Assistant Coach John Murphy took time to sit down with ColoradoRapids.com and break down this year’s NCAA Men's Soccer College Cup. Murphy will be heading out to the College Cup for purposes of scouting the nation's top college players in action this weekend.
The teams in the Final Four will play in the semifinals this Friday December 14th with the championship match taking place this Sunday December 16th in Cary North Carolina.
Below find Murphy's exclusive inside commentary on each of the remaining teams players he will be keeping his eyes on his predictions on scores for each matchup and his pick for who will take the 2007 Championship!
See how his picks match up to your brackets!
MURPHY'S LAW: "PREVIEWING THE MEN'S COLLEGE CUP'
By Rapids Assistant Coach John Murphy
"Well here I am on the road again in preparation for the 2008 MLS SuperDraft to be held January 17 in Baltimore Maryland! This time I'm off to Cary North Carolina for the NCAA College Cup to watch an intriguing group of teams.
While scouting is a process that never really ends over the past month or so our staff has been traveling to see players first-hand that could potentially be available for selection in the draft and join us for pre-season in late-January. Battling holiday travelers is never much fun but this is the time of year where conference championships NCAA matches and events such as the Final Four show players in the most accurate light.
Factors such as their ability to handle pressure poor weather conditions and increased competition are laid bare with nowhere for underachievers to hide. Short of having the player in to train with your team this is often the most accurate assessment of a player’s ability to make the jump from the college ranks to the pros.

This past weekend Fernando was in Florida for the Nike Friendlies and I was back home for two NCAA quarter-final matches in the New England region. So as Fernando watched the samba rhythm of the Brazilian U-17’s wearing sunglasses and drinking ice tea I was sipping scalding Dunkin' Donuts coffee and standing in 27-degree weather dressed like Robert Peary (or was it Robert Bartlett?). Regardless in these situations it is nice to be the head coach!
In all seriousness I always enjoy going back to Boston and the two quarter-final matches have helped give me some insight for the upcoming Final Four. It will be an interesting event with a true favorite the hottest team in the country a dark horse and a big-time outsider all taking part.
Here's my team-by-team breakdowns of the Final Four:
The Outsiders: UMASS – All that is missing is Bill Murray teeing off on the flower beds of Bushwood Country Club: "This is a true Cinderella story!" UMass has moved through the tourney on the backs of wins vs. Boston University Boston College (the #1 seed) Central Connecticut and Illinois-Chicago. They put together a solid run of matches highlighted by beating the ACC Champions Boston College on the road – an impressive feat on its own. However having witnessed the game vs. Illinois-Chicago I feel they were fortunate to advance from the quarter-finals. UMass rode the solid goalkeeping of Zach Simmons and scored two scrappy goals off the break to win 2-1. They were outplayed for much of that match failing to possess the ball for any period of time on an icy pitch. The fact that Illinois-Chicago combined well and created more chances in the same conditions underlines the importance of home field advantage in these types of games. The crowd was rowdy and the home team fed off their emotions during key moments in the match. Despite a good traveling contingent from the Bay State they will have to come up with more if they are to advance to the final. The space that their midfield allowed to develop in transition situations will be exploited by an active and mobile opponent unless it is rectified quickly.
Key players: Goalkeeper Zach Simmons Center Back Kenny Cook and Forward Mark Desantis

The Hot Team: OHIO STATE – I saw the Buckeyes early in the year when we were in Columbus for our 1-1 draw with the Crew. They are a typical Big Ten team: workmanlike solid defensively good size up the spine of the team and pace on the flanks. They are 11-0-3 in their last fourteen matches so they have definitely hit their stride at the right time. They are tough at the back lead by goalkeeper Casey Latchem and do not concede many goals. Unfortunately for their opponents they are also capable of scoring some in a hurry. In their 4-0 quarter-final win over Bradley they scored all four goals in a 12-minute span keyed by speedster Xavier Balc. Transfer Rodger Espinoza is a Colorado resident and adds skill and guile on the flanks for Ohio State. If they can keep their current form on Friday you will see the Buckeyes playing for their first-ever national championship in men’s soccer on Sunday.
Key players: Goalkeeper Casey Latchem Center Back Eric Brunner and Forward Xavier Balc
The Dark Horse: VIRGINIA TECH – Not many including myself gave Virginia Tech much of a chance vs. powerful UConn on the road in the quarter-finals last Saturday. UConn had been one of the most impressive teams in the nation throughout the year and had strength throughout their lineup. However Mother Nature had the final say as she usually does in that part of the world come December. Due to bright sunshine on the day the field was soft at the surface. However due to several weeks of below-freezing temperatures the field was pure ice two inches below. This bad combination left a cut-up bumpy skating rink for both teams and certainly impacted UConn’s possession game that they depend on to control tempo and create attacking chances. While Virginia Tech deserved to win on the day the poor conditions blunted UConn’s potent attack and unfortunately the Final Four is deprived of a very good team as a result. But despite my assessment of UConn's absence I was impressed with Virginia Tech and Coach Oliver Weiss’ game plan to beat the Huskies as it worked to perfection. They are a direct team that played quickly out of the back half of the field into target Bryan Collier to hold the ball up or into playmaker Patrick Nyarko to combine with teammates in the front half of the field. These two players were key in earning set pieces in the attacking third and the team’s counter attack style kept UConn’s back four pinned in for most of the game. This tactical mindset will serve them well in the semi's against a team such as Wake Forest who is very good going forward in numbers but may be vulnerable at the back.
Key players: Midfielder Georg Zehender Forward Bryan Collier and Forward Patrick Nyarko
The Favorite: WAKE FOREST – Long considered a team that produced excellent individual players (such as Michael Parkhurst James Riley Stephen Keel and Amir Lowery) but who has underperformed in the playoffs Wake has made a statement over the past couple of years that this is no longer the case. An appearance in last year’s Final Four has been used as a springboard for them to return in 2007 stronger than ever. A balanced side that possesses the ball very well the key for them may very well be who scores the 1st goal of the match. Wake is 18-0-1 when scoring the 1st goal of the match – an impressive statistic. Center back Jules Valintin the versatile Pat Phelan and striker Marcus Tracy lead a squad that was # 1 in the country for a majority of the season. With a strong "home" crowd traveling down to Cary (a short distance from Winston-Salem) this may be the year for the Demon Deacons.
Key players: Goalkeeper Brian Edwards Defender Jules Valintin and Forward Marcus Tracy
MURPH'S PICKS:
2007 College Cup Semifinals:
Virginia Tech vs Wake Forest (Friday Dec. 14 3pm MT live on ESPN-2 & ESPN-U)
Prediction:Wake Forest Wins 1-0
Ohio State vs UMass (Friday Dec. 14 5:30pm MT live on ESPN-U and tape delayed at 9pm MT on ESPN-2)
Prediction: Ohio State Wins 2-0
2007 NCAA College Cup Championship: (Sunday Dec. 16 1pm MT live on ESPN-2)
Prediction: Wake Forest Defeats Ohio State 2-1 in OT
Thanks for giving me the chance to share my analysis with our loyal Rapids fans and I hope everyone tunes in this weekend to watch the semi's and championship match to check out some of the best young players in the country!"