Exclusive to ColoradoRapids.com - Rapids Assistant Coach Steve Trittschuh took time to sit down with ColoradoRapids.com and break down this year’s NCAA Men’s Final Four in advance of this weekend’s Men's Soccer College Cup (the Semifinals are on Friday and the Championship match is on Sunday).
The four teams that have reached the NCAA Division 1 Semifinals this year are: New Mexico Clemson Maryland and SMU.
Tritt and the Rapids coaching staff have seen and scouted more players on these teams and more college games in general than any other MLS team this year. Below find his commentary on each team in the Final Four players he will be keeping his eyes on as well as his pick for who will take the Championship!
BREAKING DOWN THE 2005 NCAA MEN’S COLLEGE CUP
By Rapids Assistant Coach Steve Trittschuh
"This year has been a very good year for watching a lot of college games. Myself John Murphy and Fernando Clavijo have seen and scouted more college games than any other team in MLS.
Our coaching staff has done a great job of identifying players in college that will be eligible for the MLS SuperDraft in January. We have also made countless phone calls to all our contacts getting as much information about the players we may not have seen. The final four teams in the tournament ( New Mexico Clemson Maryland and SMU) have all been seen by John or myself.
The first game on Friday will match up New Mexico vs. Clemson. New Mexico is ranked number 1 by the NSCAA/adidas Div. 1 rankings and this will be the first trip to the College Cup for the university. New Mexico improved to 17-1-3 on the year tying the second-most wins in school history. Both John Murphy and I have seen New Mexico this season and we have also seen them close up when we played them last spring in Westminster.
The Lobos are led by senior All-American and Hermann Trophy Semifinalist forward Jeff Rowland. Rowland is simply a goal scorer. He has scored the last two game winners and in leading the Lobos to the College Cup. The other player to keep and eye on are Midfielder Lance Watson defenders Josh Brown and Andrew Boyens and also Defensive Midfielder Brandon Moss.
This will be Clemson’s seventh time in the NCAA Final Four. The Tigers won the National Championship in 1984 and 1987. They have an overall record of 15-5-3 on the season. The Tigers are led in scoring by Junior Dane Richards with 11 goals and 8 assists. Junior Goalkeeper Phil Marfuggi has anchored their defense that has not goal in four NCAA Tournament matches. The one senior to watch is Defender Justin Moore. I have not seen this player this season but according to John Murphy the kid is a strong defender.
I look for this to be a hard fought match but with New Mexico coming out on top and making it to the final game.
The next semifinal will pit SMU vs. Maryland. This will be Maryland’s fourth-straight College Cup appearance after advancing on penalty kicks over Akron last weekend.
Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski has done a tremendous job with that program the last few years. He has his teams prepared and ready to play just like when he played. I should know..... I used to play against him!
Maryland are 18-4-1. They are led by Senior striker and ACC Player of the Year Jason Garey. Garey is also a Hermann Trophy Semifinalist. Just like Rowland from New Mexico Garey is a goal scorer but also a better all-round player. Garey has 20 goals and 7 assists on the season. The two other players to watch from Maryland are Defenders Chris Lancos and Kenny Bertz. They are both solid defenders and they are attending the MLS Combine in January. Marland plays a very attractive attacking game. They defend well and attack quickly in transition.
The last team in the Final Four is SMU. I watched Conference USA Tournament a few weeks ago in Dallas and never would have thought SMU would have made it this far. Not that I am saying they are a bad team (Luchi Gonzalez and Byron Foss might get mad since they are SMU alumni!) but they did not impress me that much. Their record is 14-5-3. That goes to show if a team gets hot at the right time things will happen. The one player that did impress me from SMU is Forward Duke Hashimoto. He has 11 goal and 7 assists. Hashimoto and Midfielder David Chun will be at the Combine in January.
Look for this match to be a little more open than the other semifinal. I think Maryland will defeat SMU to get to the championship match.
All in all this should be a decent College Cup. There are two teams in New Mexico and Maryland that over the college season have proven they should be there. Then the other two teams that get hot at the right part of the season: Clemson and SMU.
I look for a final of Maryland and New Mexico. I think that would be a fantastic final showcasing the two top goal-scorers in college! It's tough to predict who will win it all but what the heck I'm going with New Mexico. They're the best team in my opinion and I'm going with them."
New Mexico defeats Clemson
Maryland defeats SMU
2005 NCAA College Cup Champion: New Mexico