28 September 2014

Calling top-5 matchup between Virginia, Florida State on ESPNU Sunday

Our midfield view at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
My fall slate of soccer games hits its most high-profile contest on Sunday, with No. 3 Virginia (ranked No. 2 by Soccer America) taking on No. 5 Florida State at 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU. If you like watching soccer at all, this game is worth checking out. Here's why:

1. The best player in college soccer. Morgan Brian is 21, a senior at Virginia, and part of the US women's national team. You may have heard of them. She won the Hermann Trophy as the country's top player last year (this highlight reel gives you some idea), and she's already got three goals and five assists in seven of Virginia's 10 games this year, missing three while playing for the US. An O-mid in college and D-mid for the US, she is an exceptionally technical player, equally comfortable playing one-touch passes and using intricate dribbling moves. I've been very impressed watching her on video, and I'm looking forward to seeing her play in person. On the Virginia side, I'm also looking forward to seeing US U-20 forward Makenzy Doniak (I called her games this summer in the U-20 Womens' World Cup) and versatile midfielder Danielle Colaprico, a New Jersey product who has played all four midfield spots this year and excelled in each.

2. International flavor. Two of Florida State's top offensive threats hail from Iceland, 5-foot-11 Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (herself a candidate for this year's Hermann Trophy) and 5-foot-9 Berglind Thorvaldsdóttir. Yes, that means their fathers' names are Brynjar and Thorvald. The Seminoles also have players from Ireland, Finland, Japan, Germany, and Canada.(and New Jersey!)

3. It's going to be close. 17 of the last 20 games between these ACC rivals have been decided by one goal or finished tied, and their last four regular-season games have gone to overtime. It will also likely be played with pace and skill rarely seen in the college ranks.

4. Virginia's ridiculous offense. The Cavaliers led the country in scoring last year with 3 goals per game and are averaging 3.6 in 2014. They have scored at least two goals in every game this season and have scored in 44 consecutive games, the longest active streak in Division I. They've also won 31 consecutive regular-season games. Their last regular-season loss? In overtime at Florida State on Oct. 14, 2012.

5. These teams need to be tested. Both went to the College Cup last year and were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by national champion UCLA. But this year, they have not faced a lot of sturdy opposition. Florida State has played two ranked teams, beating Portland and losing (at home) to rival Florida, while Virginia has yet to play a ranked opponent.

After flying in on Saturday afternoon, I watched Virginia's walk-through on a bumpy football practice field (in the shadow of Doak Campbell Stadium) and checked out Florida State's facilities, including the softball field (which shares a concourse with the soccer stadium) and baseball stadium. Not surprisingly, humidity and bugs were everywhere, but I have a feeling that won't slow these teams down this afternoon.

I'm excited to work with ACC, NCAA, and Olympic champion Cat (Reddick) Whitehill for the second straight week, with coverage starting on ESPNU at 4 p.m. ET or after the conclusion of the Florida-Mizzou game that starts at 2 ET (also worth watching). Should that game go into overtime, our show will start on WatchESPN. But whenever and however you have the chance, it'll be worth watching!

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