The final of the 2011 NCAA Men's College Cup is going to be an all-North Carolina affair. After UNC-Charlotte upset Creighton to get into the final, the UNC Tar Heels defeated UCLA in the late match, drawing 2-2 after extra time and 3-1 in the penalty shootout.
North Carolina started the game with most of the possession, as Enzo Martinez looked fantastic on the ball and dictated the play. However, UCLA was counter attacking quickly when they won the ball back and eventually found a goal after a couple of dangerous looking moves. Ryan Hollingshead scored the opener in the 17th minute with an absolute stunner, hitting a hard shot that grazed the underside of the crossbar from 20 yards out, assisted by Chandler Hoffman.
UCLA would take a 1-0 lead into the half, but they were lucky to do so. Near the end of the first half, UNC had a couple of fantastic chances to equalize. Billy Schuler almost scored in the 37th minute with a brilliant turn and shot from the edge of the penalty area, but Brian Rowe made a great save to tip the shot onto the crossbar to prevent a goal. Ben Spees almost scored six minutes later with a rip from 25 yards out, hitting the post after cutting in from the left and taking a shot.
North Carolina would continue to attack to start the second half and found an equalizer in the 55th minute. Spees created the goal with a great run to the endline and a chip back across the face of goal, with Rob Lovejoy finishing off the chance with a header. They would continue to be the slightly better side for a bit, but UCLA found a second goal.
Kelyn Rowe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, was the man who netted for the Bruins in the 74th minute. Despite Rowe's talent and reputation, he started this match on the bench after a run of average performances. UCLA's strategy to bring him in off the bench worked to perfection as he looked fresh and motivated once he entered the game. The goal was a great passing move, with Victor Munoz passing to Hoffman, who laid the ball off to Rowe. Rowe dribbled into the penalty area and finished from a narrow angle, giving his side the lead.
UCLA could only hang onto that lead for 10 minutes, with Schuler finding UNC's equalizer. Martinez set it up with a fantastic drive from 30 yards out, forcing Brian Rowe into a save. He made a brilliant one, getting a fingertip to the ball and tipping it off the post, but Schuler followed Martinez's shot and was there to finish on the rebound.
The two sides would not go to the penalty shot without drama. Just a minute after the Tar Heels' goal, Munoz forced a massive save out of Scott Goodwin at the other end. The two teams would go to extra time and play a fairly uneventful 20 minutes until the final seconds, when Rowe made another great save for UCLA. From almost 30 yards out, Kirk Urso hit a powerful shot for the Tar Heels right as time was set to expire, but Rowe tipped it wide just as the buzzer sounded, sending the sides to penalty kicks.
Andy Rose of UCLA was the first penalty taker and set the tone for the round, hitting an average penalty that Goodwin was able to save. Urso made his penalty before Rowe suffered the same fate as Rose, hitting a penalty that was saved by Goodwin. Drew McKinney and Munoz made back to back penalties for their teams before Schuler missed for UNC, hitting the post and giving UCLA new life. Fernando Monge squandered the chance, though, hitting his penalty horribly wide. Spease stepped up and converted the clinching penalty for the Tar Heels, sending them through to the final with a 3-1 penalty shootout win.