CHESTER, Pa. – A match filled with talent -- and controversy -- ended with No. 3 Notre Dame edging out No. 5 Maryland, 2-1, to win the NCAA College Cup final on Sunday at PPL Park. The victory hands the Fighting Irish their first-ever national championship in soccer.
Senior defender Andrew O’Malley netted the game-winning goal for the Irish in the 60th minute, finishing off a comeback that began in the 40th-minute when senior striker Leon Brown (pictured above, left) slotted home from an acute angle to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Maryland’s star striker Patrick Mullins opened the scoring in the 35th minute, cleaning up a scramble in the box after Notre Dame’s Patrick Hodan blocked Maryland junior midfielder Alex Shinsky’s close-range shot on the line. Replays showed convincingly that Hodan cleared Shinsky’s effort with his left arm, but referee Hilario Grajeda didn’t make the call -- which would've certainly demanded a red card in addition to a penalty. Instead, Mullins finished the rebound and Hodan stayed on the field.
The Fighting Irish were able to take advantage of Maryland’s defense on two quick restarts to take back the lead.
Brown’s 40th-minute strike came courtesy of a lightning-quick sequence off a throw-in from freshman defender Luke Mishu that junior midfielder Nick Besler headed into Brown’s path for a close-range finish past Maryland and Philadelphia Union Homegrown goalkeeper Zack Steffen. O'Malley put Notre Dame ahead for good 20 minutes later, rising up to head home a free-kick from Chicago Fire Homegrown Harrison Shipp.
The Terrapins had another shout for a penalty turned down in the 67th minute when Columbus Crew Homegrown Connor Klekota seemed to handle the ball in the box off a corner kick.
Maryland had a chance to tie the game in the 88th minute when Notre Dame was called for a foul just outside of their box, but Mullins’ freekick was well wide of the target, and the Fighting Irish were able to hold on for their first-ever soccer national title.
After the match, Shipp was named Most Oustanding Player at the College Cup.