EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State Spartans and Louisville Cardinals will meet on the pitch at DeMartin Stadium, Sunday, for the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“They are a good team, Louisville. Very organized. Very well balanced,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “I think they have good defenders, good goalkeeping, some dynamic attacking players in (Marlon) Hairston, (Andrew) Brody, (Ricardo) Velazco, holding mids in (Daniel) Keller and six more are very solid. When you look at a prototypical college team, top 20 team, they fit that mold for sure.”
The Cardinals had to get through 110 minutes and penalty kicks against the University of Denver in order to make it to the second round, which has the Spartans thinking that can be an advantage for them come Sunday.
“We have a lot of confidence going in and with them playing a double overtime game, going to PK’s, we know that (it’s) pretty hard and tough on your legs,” redshirt junior Tim Kreutz said. “We have had a couple days off and a lot of rest. I just think that we are going to be ready to jump them on Sunday.”
A tired Louisville team is not the only reason why the Spartans believe that they have an advantage. With their vast amount of player experience in the NCAA tournament, the Spartans are confident going into Sunday’s game.
“First of all, when you have a guy like (Kevin) Cope on your team who has played in a lot of NCAA tournament games, that is going to help a lot,” junior midfielder Fatai Alashe said. “He has seen things in games, he has been through tough games and whether things are going good or bad, or whatever is happening in the game, he will keep guys into it. Most of our starters have been in NCAA tournament games, so everybody should be ready to play and it shouldn’t really be a problem.”
The Cardinals are strong in the midfield and are led by two young players in Velazco and Brody.
As a sophomore, Velazco leads the Cardinals in goals (7), assists (9) and points (23), and he has started all 19 games.
Freshman Andrew Brody is second on the team in points (14) and assists (8) and has also played in all 19 games.
“Kind of a battle in the midfield, and I think we have guys in our midfield that are ready for whoever they have coming at us,” Kreutz said. “Just heard they have a couple good players in the midfield, attacking wise. Obviously they couldn’t put any goals away and I think that’s an advantage for us because we have a strong backline with Kevin and Keener and Thelen and Andrew Herr.”
Brooks Laimbeer is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales