Exhibitions Prepare Akron Men's Soccer for Opener
Two exhibitions provided mixed results for the Zips as the squad prepared for their regular season opener. A win against Marshall wowed home fans early in the week, while a loss in St. Louis tonight still showed significant progress.
The No. 8 University of Akron men's soccer team opened up its preseason schedule with a resounding 4-1 victory over Marshall Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Akron jumped ahead early with a trio of goals before the break and never looked back – out-shooting the Thundering Herd 19-3 for the match and 11-1 on goal. In particular, it was an impressive Zips' debut for freshman midfielder Adam Najem, who tallied two goals and an assist to lead the charge for UA.
Despite being a Tuesday night exhibition match before the start of classes, Akron had the benefit of playing in front of a lively crowd of 1,826 fans.
The Zips wasted little time giving the crowd something to cheer for as Aodhan Quinn buried a cross from Saad Abdul-Salaam in the ninth minute, then Bryan Gallego flicked home a free kick from Najem just three minutes later.
Marshall cut its deficit in half in the 20th minute on its lone shot on goal. Freshman Daniel Jodah made the most of the opportunity by uncorking an unassisted laser from more than 30 yards out into the far corner of the net.
But that's as close as the Herd would get as the Zips continued to dominate play and limited Marshall to just one shot – an attempt that sailed high over the goal – after the break. Conversely, UA continued to threaten the MU goal and broke through twice in the second half with both scores coming off the foot of Najem.
The U.S. Under-18 National Team product skipped a shot past the keeper in the 39th minute then finished a through ball from Phil Fives from the top of the box in the 64th to close out the scoring.
Despite out-shooting the opposition by a count of 17-6, The No. 8 University of Akron men's soccer team came up short in a 2-0 exhibition defeat at No. 15 Saint Louis at Hermann Stadium Saturday night.
The Zips controlled the large majority of the contest but some defensive miscommunication led to an early goal for the defending Atlantic 10 champion Billikens, who made the most of their limited opportunities in converting two of their three shots on goal for the night.
In just the eighth minute of play, Alex Sweetin served a free kick into the box from the left sideline. The ball bounced around before Julian Gieseke slipped a pass to Tyler David, who skipped a shot around a block of Zips defenders and into the net.
Akron had a number of chances to pull even – with an advantage of 7-3 in shots in the first half and 10-3 after halftime – but couldn't cash in.
In particular, UA had a trio of prime scoring oppportunities in the second half.
First, in the 54th minute, Reinaldo Brenes found himself all alone from 12 yards out but the SLU goalkeeper David Andre just got a hand up in time to punch the ball into the air. Brenes jumped on the rebound but his second shot sailed high over the cross bar.
Then, just three minutes later, Adam Najem was in a similar position and fired a rocket into the goalie box from straight away but once again Andre, who finished with three saves on the night after entering the match at halftime, was there to punch the ball clear.
Finally, with four minutes left in regulation, Ismail Seremba, who came on for Eric Stevenson late, got around his mark and caught the keeper out of position. But this time, a Billikens' defender was there to clear the mid-ranged shot off the line.
After surviving a number of scares throughout the game, Saint Louis capitalized off an Akron turnover in the back field to put the match away on a goal by Josh Kohring at the 87:22 mark.
Saturday night served as the final preseason tune-up for the Zips, who will officially kick off the 2013 campaign at the College of Charleston Tournament next weekend in South Carolina.
Akron Men's Soccer Ready to Compete for National Title
The No. 8 University of Akron men's soccer team took to the pitch Wednesday for their first official training session of the fall collegiate season. The program is now in the capable hands of former assistant Jared Embick, who was promoted to head coach when Caleb Porter left for the Portland Timbers.
Fans shouldn't expect a lot of changes under Embick's watch.
"With Caleb I had a great mentor so I don't have to change much," Embick commented. "I can follow the blueprint, add and built to it. That's the plan of what we are going to do."
Players admitted the transition has been very smooth.
"There is a little difference, a different personality,"senior midfielder Aodhan Quinn stated. "Jared's been here the whole time I've been here. He's really smart and we always listen to him. It's not too big of a change."
Akron features five returning starters, nine returning letterwinners, and 13 newcomers.
Reinaldo Brenes returns as the top goal-scorer with 11, but Embick will watch over the Costa Rican striker closely as durability and injury concerns have been an issue before. Brenes is a deadly finisher and was recently named to Top Drawer Soccer's Preseason's Best XI on the Second Team.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Fernando Pina will have junior defender Bryan Gallego, a First Team Top Drawer Soccer's Preseason Best XI selection, leading the backline in front of him so the defense should be again one of the nation's best. Pina looks to be an absolute beast between the posts, having more athletic ability and being more vocal than the departed David Meves, who finished his career as the NCAA's all-time leader for shutouts.
The newcomers are perhaps the most exciting prospects, including three English lads that come from some of the top academies in Europe. Louis Cross (Blackpool), striker Ismail Seremba (Chelsea), and Sam Gainford (Liverpool) are all expected to contribute at some point in the season.
"They come with a different level of belief and that can spread to the rest of the guys, that confidence," Embick added. "They are not going to be in awe of who they are playing or how many fans are in the stands. It's all business for them. They are going to come out and perform. That will help the other guys settle down and give them more belief in what we do here."
The formation will be likely be a 4-3-3 with a 4-4-2 as another option for certain game situations.
"Whatever we do is going to be to control, dominate the game," Embick concluded. "Any formation change will be with that mind. That we can dominate and score more goals. That's how we will be approaching the game."
Embick and Akron fans are excited about the prospects of this year's squad.
"This year we have a lot of key seniors. I know people think we lost a lot. We could have four or five seniors in the starting lineup. We have a lot of good depth. The whole team from top to bottom is a pretty good level. I think you're going to see us make a couple different lineups, a couple of different options to help adjust in games to win them."
Those high expectations are nothing new for the Zips, who went 18-1-3 last fall and advanced to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season.
Fans will get their first view of the 2013 Akron Zips in an intrasquad scrimmage that is open to the public at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field on Friday, August 16 at 6:30 p.m. Following the match, Embick will even field questions about the upcoming season in a Q&A session with fans.
The Embick Era has begun and it is looking good.
Projected Starting XI: GK Fernando Pina, D Saad Abdul-Salaam, Bryan Gallego, Andrew Souders, Phil Fives, M Eric Stevenson, Victor Souto, Adam Najem, F Aodhan Quinn, Ismail Seremba, Reinaldo Brenes