Semifinals Preview

Games will be played at La Salle University’s McCarthy Stadium (1900 W. Olney Ave., 19141).

This year’s semifinal matches will feature three group winners, plus one group’s second-place finisher. No Unity Cup champ has even been a group winner: in 2016, Ivory Coast finished second to Germany in their group, but went on to win the tournament. In 2017, Liberia narrowly made it out of the group round, but managed to survive the play-in round to eventually win the cup. This all bodes well for Ireland, the only non-group winner of the 2018 tournament.

 

#8 USA vs. #5 Liberia

Not many know this, but this will be the third time in three years these teams meet (though under a different country’s flag). In 2016 and 2017, team USA was team Germany. When the opportunity to recruit and coach the US team presented itself, Coach Tim Hampson jumped right in, especially with the chance to finally knock off their nemesis, Liberia.

For Liberia, it has been business as usual. Coach Jason Waylee has his boys playing at their best, and top goal scorers Anthony Allison and Titus Wright lead the charge. Liberia was not challenged in the group stage, which gave them the only bye of the final four teams. If it wasn’t for Guinea taking them the distance, the tournament would have been a cake walk for them so far. That could actually work against them; team USA was put together with 2016 and 2017 in mind, and they are hungry. They have the speed and discipline to stay with Liberia for the full ninety minutes, and won’t come in intimidated by the champs.

Look for this one to be as close as it sounds, but for Liberia to ultimately come out on top once again to advance and get a chance for back-to-back cups.

 

#14 Ireland vs. #10 Ivory Coast

This tournament has been a whirlwind for Coach Pat Henigan and team Ireland. After two easy group victories, they suffered a shorthanded loss to El Salvador. This cost them the group, but may have been a blessing in disguise once the bracket came out. Luck has certainly been on their side in last-minute victories over Ghana and Honduras, but they face a whole new challenge in trying to contain Ivory Coast.

The Ivorian team (2016 Unity Cup champion) has it all. Led by phenomenal goal-scorer Seydou Ba, Ivory Coast is never satisfied. They go up 2-0? Not good enough: they want 6 on the board. This will be Ireland’s challenge, to handle the onslaught of Ivory Coast and keep it close as long as they can.

Ireland will do everything in their power to keep this one close. But beware, if Ivory Coast puts up a few early goals and the game opens up, it will be curtains for Ireland. Expect the toughness and grit of Ireland to show through in a tough match to the second half, but Ivory Coast’s speed and endurance will win out. They’ll likely add some insurance in the final 15 minutes to advance to a rematch of the 2016 championship versus Liberia.