2017 College Cup features two academy products
Two Black-and-Red academy products will be in Philadelphia for this weekend’s NCAA men’s soccer College Cup, with the semifinals unfolding on Friday, Dec. 8, and the championship slated for 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Dec. 10. Former U-18 academy defender Prince Agyei is a freshman for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, and former U-23 academy goalkeeper Eduardo Palacios Fabre is a senior for the Stanford University Cardinal.
Agyei, a Takoma Park, Md., native, joined the U-17/18 United academy team during the 2016-2017 season, sharpening his craft in the back line before departing to Chapel Hill to begin his collegiate career. The Ghanian has yet to debut for the Tar Heels, but appeared in 19 matches (14 starts) for the academy during the 2016-2017 season.
Fabre spent the 2016 and 2017 summers playing for United’s U-23 academy team following three seasons with the Hawaii Pacific men’s soccer team. During his time in Hawaii, Fabre made 24 starts for the Sharks between the 2014 and 2015 seasons, tallying 75 saves and posting six shutouts. The Spaniard is now pursuing his master’s in epidemiology and clinical research at Stanford. He has yet to appear for the Cardinal.
The first ticket to the College Cup final will be punched following Friday’s 6 p.m. match between no. 9 Stanford and no. 5 Akron. The Cardinal return to the College Cup as the two-time defending champions, having defeated Clemson 4-0 in 2015’s final and outlasting Wake Forest (and United Homegrown Ian Harkes) 5-4 in penalty kicks last year. Stanford are on the verge of creating a dynasty, becoming only the second school in NCAA Division 1 men’s soccer history to three-peat as champions (the University of Virginia’s reigned from 1991-1994), should the Cardinal capture the title. With their dangerous counter-attack and their defense’s ability to stifle opposing attackmen, back-to-back-to-back championships could be within reach for Stanford.
Standing in Stanford’s way are the Akron Zips, who have fought their way to the semifinals for the second time in three years and are in pursuit of their second national championship. While facing back-to-back champions may seem like a daunting task, Akron’s strength in both attacking and defending should make for an even matchup. The Zips scored 50 goals this season, good for third most in the nation, while their back line ranks fifth in the country in goals allowed per game.
On the other side of the bracket, no. 3 North Carolina and no. 2 Indiana take center stage at 8:45 p.m. The Tar Heels are making their sixth appearance in the College Cup in the last 10 seasons and are pushing toward their third title—the first since 2011. Led by a fiery attack that’s ranked second in the country, North Carolina will attempt to break down Indiana’s formidable back line and ride their offensive explosiveness into the final. With Carolina’s core offensive quartet of Jelani Pieters, Cam Lindley, Zach Wright, and Alan Winn combining for 31 goals and 33 assists this season, the Heels boast the ability to put points on the board, and fast.
Friday night will be a classic matchup of potent offense versus smothering defense, as Indiana have built arguably the nation’s toughest back line. The Hoosiers enter the College Cup as the nation’s only undefeated team, plowing their way through conference and tournament play thanks to their impressive defensive fortitude that has resulted in a mere six conceded goals all year. One of the most decorated programs in the country, Indiana are on the hunt for their ninth title and first since 2012, which would make the Hoosiers second to only St. Louis (10 championships) in titles won.
With some of Major League Soccer’s top young prospects taking center stage this weekend, the soccer world will be keeping an eye on the Cardinal, Zips, Tar Heels, and Hoosiers.