Marshall’s run to the 2020 NCAA College Cup title was one for the ages as the Herd took down many nationally-ranked foes to earn the school’s first-ever national championship in soccer.
Officially, the run started on April 18 in a 2-0 win over Charlotte in Huntington that solidified the Herd as Conference USA Champions, which also gave them the automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
That win was the first in a string of six victories (technically five wins and a draw while advancing on penalty kicks) over nationally-ranked opponents to end the season — the greatest run in program history.
It was especially impressive, considering the Herd never trailed throughout the NCAA title run.
Here’s a timeline highlighting each NCAA Tournament win on the road to becoming national champions.
Sunday, May 2
Wilson, North Carolina
Marshall 2, Fordham 1 (OT)
In looking back at the this year’s NCAA Tournament, this proved to be one of Marshall’s toughest matchups once all was said and done.
In the end, the brilliance of forward Milo Yosef and clutch play of goalkeeper Oliver Semmle proved to be the difference in the Herd advancing out of the Second Round.
After a year in which Yosef made some incredible runs, but struggled to find the net, Yosef turned around his own fortunes and got the NCAA tournament off to a dazzling start for the Herd.
Yosef put together the fourth multi-goal performance of his Marshall career when he took a feed from Jamil Roberts on a low cross into the box and slotted it past Fordham goalkeeper Josh Levine in the 97th minute to help the Herd advance.
The shot came three minutes after Yosef rang the crossbar with a would-be game-winner.
Semmle was responsible for the Herd making it to the overtime session when he sprawled to the near post for a save in the 88th minute to save the Herd’s season. It was the first of many huge saves for Semmle in the tournament.
Yosef gave Marshall a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute when he took a feed from Vitor Dias and fired it past the ear of Levine. Fordham scored the equalizer in the 43rd minute to send the teams into the break tied at 1.
The victory set up a matchup with No. 1 seed Clemson — the ACC Champion.
Thursday, May 6
WakeMed Soccer Park
Cary, North Carolina
Marshall 1, Clemson 1 (Herd advances on PKs, 7-6)
Coming in, many thought Marshall got the short end of the stick on its NCAA draw when they saw No. 1 seed Clemson slotted for a Third Round matchup.
However, head coach Chris Grassie maintained to be the best, Marshall had to be the best — all while maintaining his stoic confidence.
In the end, Marshall showed itself as the better side, especially in the overtime periods and then again in penalty kicks as Semmle provided one the tournament’s most clutch performances with a pair of saves in penalty kicks to lift the Herd.
After Yosef had a pair of chances to end it in OT go wide, Semmle stepped up in the biggest stage.
With Marshall missing its first kick, the Herd needed a save and was down to its last two opportunities. That’s when Semmle turned the tide with a deflection on a shot from Clemson’s Mohamed Seye that ricocheted Seye’s shot off the post.
Things drew even again after a Marshall conversion and the teams went back and forth in the next three rounds before Semmle stuffed Quinn McNeill’s attempt to place the Herd a conversion from advancing.
Vitor Dias — “The Magician” as he’s called on the team — drilled a shot into the upper half of the net, setting off a celebration that was heard around the NCAA soccer world.
The victory put Marshall in the public spotlight and established the Herd as a potential Cinderella at college soccer’s biggest ball.
The road would get no easier, though, as the win put Marshall up against defending national champion Georgetown.
Monday, May 10
WakeMed Soccer Park
Cary, North Carolina
Marshall 1, Georgetown 0
Early in its match with Georgetown, Marshall seemed to be a team hanging on as the Hoyas consistently got shots in the early going.
Marshall, who was coming off a grueling win over Clemson in penalty kicks three days prior, didn’t have its legs early and the Herd simply had to weather the storm.
It did so, however, using a strong back line to keep the match scoreless while making some tactical adjustments at halftime, which provided a difference in the second half.
As the game waned on, Marshall’s confidence grew and the legs returned as the Herd’s 11 started to find its rhythm.
That rhythm paid off in the 70th minute when Dias showed why he was an All-American.
Dias made a run past two Georgetown defenders and kept possession near the end line into the box, which forced more Hoyas to come crashing in.
As they did, Dias sent a ball over to Jamil Roberts, who tapped it in for a goal that gave Marshall the advantage and put it on the cusp of victory.
Georgetown got a run late, but a header attempt from Zack Riviere bounded into Semmle’s arms and Marshall watched the clock wind down before players and fans alike celebrated the win and the team’s first-ever advancement to the NCAA College Cup where they would take on North Carolina.
Friday, May 14
NCAA College Cup semifinal
Sahlen’s Stadium, WakeMed Soccer Park
Cary, North Carolina
Marshall 1, North Carolina 0
Marshall had just one shot at playing for the NCAA College Cup title, and it made the most of it.
In the 60th minute, Marshall’s Jamil Roberts made sure the Herd’s lone shot of the match found twine when he slipped a shot into the net to give Marshall a lead with 30 minutes remaining.
This, above all matches in the NCAA title run, showed Marshall’s discipline and the totality of its team strength.
North Carolina, who should’ve been a home team with campus just 30 miles away, dominated play early and came out as the aggressor against the Herd.
The Tar Heels used a skilled back line to take away things the Herd likes to do, which kept Marshall without many chances on the offensive end.
However, the goalkeeping of Oliver Semmle and the back line of the Herd kept the sheet clean and Marshall started using its possession-based attack to wear down the Tar Heels.
In the 60th minute, Milo Yosef made a run into the middle before sending a pass to Dias, who flicked it to Roberts for the open opportunity on net.
Marshall survived a crossbar struck by the Tar Heels and also a play in the 87th minute in which a cross in the box went over the end line and back into play. Referee Nikola Aleksic was all over the call and, instead of it being a match-tying goal late in regulation, it was waved off and the Herd got a goal kick.
It was the latest wild ride in Marshall’s ascent to the NCAA College Cup title game where they would face eight-time national champion Indiana — one of the most storied programs in NCAA Division I soccer.
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