With both games at the Men’s College Cup going scoreless and to penalty kicks on Friday, the two remaining teams — Stanford and Clemson — will be looking for answers for that elusive goal to take home the title when the teams play Sunday at 1 p.m. at Sporting Park.
For the Cardinal, its best bet could be junior Jordan Morris.
Not only is he considered one of the best college soccer players in the country, Morris also spent a few different stretches with the United States men’s national team in 2015.
Morris was on the team for 2018 World Cup qualifying and scored his first international goal against Mexico in April, the first college player to score for the U.S. since 1992.
But Morris does not want to talk much about himself. Plus, since much of it happened during the middle of his school year, and Stanford’s season, he hasn’t had much time to process the incredible opportunity.
“It’s kind of been going, going, going, so not too much,” he told reporters this week. “Obviously, when I do get that time to look back it’s pretty surreal.”
Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn credited Morris on his exceptional play and what he means to the team.
However, with a 7-0-2 record while missing Morris the last two years, the Cardinal, ranked No. 8, believe it is ready to play anybody with or without him.
“Jordan’s a special talent. He’s also a great, great guy,” Gunn said. “I think part of the reason it’s worked so well is he’s got great teammates. As he’s coming and going, he fits into the fabric of the program easily.”
A lot of that will come from the strength of the back line which includes Brian Nana-Sinkam and his ability for him and his teammates to stabilize the back four.
“The biggest thing is trust,” Nana-Sinkam said. “I trust these guys next to me with my life. We’re just so in sync. We know what we are going to do. With that kind of trust you can’t give up goals when you are working hard in that situation.”
No. 2 Clemson, 17-2-4, also has a formidable defensive wall starting with goalkeeper, Andrew Tarbell. His eight saves in the semifinal win over Syracuse were a season high. In order to do have that same effort, Tarbell will have to be ready for anything.
“I’ll need to be alert, high off my line,” Tarbell said. “Our back line will be alert, when to step, when to drop, that’ll be a big part of this next game.”
In order to do that, the back line will have to tighten up again. Kyle Fisher, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, will be a big factor in organizing the team as well.
“They do have good forwards and we’re just going to have to clean up things and be mistake free,” Fisher said.
Clemson will be going for its first national championship since 1987.
For the Tigers to attain that goal, coach Mike Noonan feels like his team won’t have to change much from what got them to the final.
“You take the good with the bad and you try to be consistent as you possibly can and we’ve been very consistent throughout the year,” Noonan said.
The game can be seen on ESPNU. With the win, Stanford takes home its first men’s soccer national title.