Sporting Park is no stranger to penalty kicks as Sporting Kansas City used them to win the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the 2013 MLS Cup in front of the home crowd. So it came as no surprise to anyone that both NCAA Men’s College Cup semifinal matches at Sporting Park Friday night were decided by one of the most dramatic ways to win a match: penalty kicks.
Clemson and Stanford each won their respective shootouts to set up an exciting championship match Sunday afternoon. The match will kick off at 1 p.m. CT with coverage on ESPNU. Tickets are available and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or at the Sporting Park box office on Sunday.
Despite a plethora of talent in both matches, none of the four sides were able to find the back of the net on Friday. Clemson goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell was the star of the first match with a season-high eight saves through 110 minutes against ACC tournament champion Syracuse. Syracuse goalkeeper Hendrik Hilpert made three saves on the evening, but was unable to stop any of Clemson’s penalty kick attempts. The Tigers won the shootout 4-1 to advance to their third national championship match in school history. They previously won the College Cup in 1984 and 1987.
The second match of Friday’s College Cup doubleheader was billed as the main event with MLS prospects filling out both Stanford and Akron’s rosters. After scoring 11 goals in their previous three tournament matches, Akron was held without a shot through the first 45 minutes of the match. The Zips finished regulation with six shot attempts, their lowest through 90 minutes all year.
Stanford, led by U.S. Men’s National Team forward Jordan Morris were able to muster some offense, but could not score past the stout Akron backline led by goalkeeper Jake Fenlason who made six saves for the team’s ninth shutout of the season. As the match wore on, both teams found openings behind the backline. Fenlanson stoned Stanford forward Foster Langsdorf in the 91st minute, while Akron midfielder Richie Laryea’s breakaway attempt was stopped by Stanford goalkeeper Andrew Epstein minutes later.
Akron took an early lead in the penalty shootout as Tyler Sanda converted his kick after Stanford's Drew Skundrich put his attempt wide. After five successful attempts, Akron looked ready to seal the match, but Epstein came up big to deny New York Red Bulls Academy product Adam Najem. Both teams converted their next two attempts before Fenlason stoned Slater Meehan to set up Akron's the potential game-winner. Goncalo Soares was unable to convert, however, as his shot ricocheted off the right post and away from the goal. After five more successful kicks, Epstein stopped Nate Shultz in the tenth round to send Stanford to their third championship match.
Akron’s NATE SHULTZ IS DENIED BY STANFORD KEEPER ANDREW EPSTEIN AND STANFORD IS GOING TO THE COLLEGE CUP FINAL.— TopDrawerSoccer (@TopDrawerSoccer) December 12, 2015
Friday night was the first time in College Cup history that both semifinals were scoreless at the end of regulation. It was also the first time both semifinals went to overtime since 2011 and only the second time in College Cup history that both semifinals went to penalty kicks (2011).