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Paws up, paws down: Clemson United advances to national championship

Clemson+defender+Shawn+Smart+scored+in+the+36th+minute+of+the+match+to+give+the+Tigers+a+leg+up.
Toby Corriston
Clemson defender Shawn Smart scored in the 36th minute of the match to give the Tigers a leg up.

Following Clemson United’s 1-0 victory over No. 5 West Virginia in the College Cup semifinals, the Tigers are now heading to their sixth national title appearance and second in three years.

Clemson defender Shawn Smart scored the lone goal of the game for the Tigers late in the first half, and the Tigers’ defense closed the game against a dangerous Mountaineers team. Here are a few of the positives and negatives from the game:

Paws up: Aggressive offense

The Tigers opened up the game against the Mountaineers by creating quick offensive opportunities in the form of multiple corner kicks and quick counter-attacks to strike early.

The Mountaineers had let up only two goals in the NCAA Tournament heading into their matchup against Clemson. The Tigers landed five out of their eight shots on goal during the match, with the game-sealing shot off the foot of Smart to cement the win.

Paws down: Foul trouble continues

Although West Virginia racked up two yellow cards, Clemson doubled the Mountaineers’ fouls by a count of 14-7 by the end of the game. Fouls have been a recurring theme for the Tigers throughout the season, as Clemson has now tallied 57 in the NCAA Tournament alone.

Paws up: Defensive effort

Although Clemson struggled to maintain possession of the ball throughout the game, the Tigers’ defense responded with intense pressure. The Mountaineers totaled six corner kicks and nine total shots, none of which were met with success.

These constant extra efforts from Clemson changed the competitive landscape for the Tigers, as their defensive dominance following Smart’s lone goal determined the victory.

Paws down: Trouble controlling offensive possessions

Clemson did not have a tremendous showing on offense and failed to sustain many long-term offensive possessions.

The Mountaineers held most of the offensive opportunity, with 60% of the possessions compared to the Tigers’ 40% in the first half and 45% to West Virginia’s 55%. The Mountaineers appeared determined to neutralize midfielder Ousmane Sylla, the Tigers’ top threat. Sylla was limited to just one shot throughout his 87 minutes in the game.

Clemson will need more of its usual dangerous offensive presence headed into the championship game if they want to bring home their fourth national title in team history.

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About the Contributors
Malone Kinard-Huisinger, Senior Reporter
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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