CARY, N.C. — The Washington men’s soccer team had never been to the College Cup, let alone played for a national title, so it will be new and heady stuff for the Huskies when they play Clemson for the national championship at 11 a.m. (PST) on Sunday.
But UW coach Jamie Clark has been here twice. He lost in the title game as a player with Stanford in 1998 and as an assistant coach with New Mexico in 2005.
“My only experience on Sunday (in the national-title game) is losing, and the third time is the charm I guess,” Clark said.
What he knows is that negotiating the quick turnaround will be vital — for both teams. The No. 2 seed Huskies (18-1-2) finished Friday’s 2-1 victory over No. 3 seed Georgetown after 11:30 p.m. (EST), giving them about 38 1/2 hours to prepare for Sunday’s game. Neither Washington nor No. 8 seed Clemson (15-5-2), which beat Notre Dame on penalty kicks earlier on Friday, has played games less than three days apart all season.
“This turnaround is one of the silliest things we do in college soccer — the shortest turnaround in the biggest game of the year — and we’ve got to do something to fix that,” said Clemson coach Mike Noonan. “It’s going to be rest and recover. We might have to go to our bench a little longer Sunday.”
Clark said the “turnaround to Sunday is going to be tricky.” He said Georgetown coach Brian Wiese told him that the key to the Hoyas winning the national title in 2019 was “getting guys to move away from the Friday game as quickly as possible.”
“I will ask my dad (Bobby Clark, who won the 2013 national title with Notre Dame) and other people what they think,” Jamie Clark said. “But just moving on physically and getting mentally in a good spot. It’s very easy to look at social media and believe you are good and it just doesn’t do us any good. We can reflect on that on Monday, and if we really are good enough, we will celebrate for a couple of weeks.”
Clark said Friday night he knew little about Clemson, other than what he saw of the Tigers Friday against Notre Dame, and was looking forward to some film sessions.
The Tigers upset No. 1 Oregon State to reach the College Cup. Goalkeeper George Marks, whose mother, Dianne Dunning, went to Roosevelt High School in Seattle, got the key penalty-kick saves in shootouts against the Beavers and the Fighting Irish that allowed Clemson the chance to play Washington.
Noonan told Clark before the College Cup that he had UW in the final game in his office bracket.
“I texted him after the game to see who he had winning, but he still hasn’t given it to me,” Clark joked.
The Huskies seem confident it will be them.
“We’re playing for a national championship and anything can happen, but we’re really excited about the matchup and we have full confidence in ourselves and what we can do on the field,” said UW junior midfielder Lucas Meek. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Clark has said during the season that he thought UW was the best team in the country.
“It’s possible, and we’re going to try and prove it on Sunday,” he said.
Washington is hosting a watch party at Alaska Airlines Arena for the 11 a.m. championship game Sunday.
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