The UA Men's Soccer Insider

Akron Men's Soccer Finds a Way to Win in WV

MORGANTOWN, WV - September 30, 2013 - On the strength of an early goal by Reinaldo Brenes, the No. 10 University of Akron men's soccer team earned their third consecutive 1-0 victory in a key Mid-American Conference match at West Virginia Sunday night.

With the win, the Zips improved to 7-2-0 overall and 2-0-0 in MAC play while the Mountaineers suffered their fourth straight defeat in falling to 3-5-1, 0-1-0.

Moreover, Akron extended its NCAA record-setting conference unbeaten streak to 49 matches (46-0-3), which began during the 2007 season.

The Zips wasted little time jumping on the Mountaineers, scoring the game's lone goal in just the fourth minute. Eric Stevenson recorded the first of two quick shots for the Zips with a liner that was punched out by West Virginia keeper Brent Arnold but Brenes were there to jump on the rebound and bury it from straight away.

It was the senior striker's team-leading fourth goal of the season and the second time the Hermann Trophy candidate has found the back of the net in his last three matches. More importantly, all four of Brenes' goals this year have been game winners.

"It was a good 1-0 win for our team," said Zips head coach Jared Embick. "West Virginia is a much better team than their record shows. To go on the road and get the win is a great result."

Akron received strong contributions from a number of players, including Brad Ruhaak, who made his first start as a Zip on the back line.

"Once again, we have shown that we have very good depth," Embick said. "Ruhaak played very well in his first game. Clint Caso (who entered the match in the 54th minute) was excellent and Riley Grant (who came on in the 71st) was a handful off the bench."

"We also received great leadership from our seniors, from Bryan Gallego and Robbie Derschang in the back to Eric Stevenson and Reinaldo Brenes up top. I am very pleased with our win tonight and we will continue to find ways to improve and become even stronger as the season progresses."

West Virginia didn't have many scoring chances in the first half after being held to just three shots, but could have pulled even in the 15th minute had it not been for a superb save by Zips' goalkeeper Fernando Pina.

Following an Akron turnover, WVU's Jay Williams made a dangerous run through the Akron back line on a counter and fired a shot from 15 yards out that had a chance. But Pina, who finished with three saves, came up with a big stop, lunging to his right to preserve the Zips' lead.

The second half was more balanced as both teams had opportunities to influence the score.

In particular, WVU had a couple of quality chances early on when Christian Diaz one-timed a rocket from the top of the box that sailed just wide of the left post in the 55th minute and Andy Bevin hit the crossbar with a header shortly after.

The Zips' best opportunities cames late when Matt Foldesy hit the post in the 84th minute and Grant had a good look that resulted in one of six saves on the night for Arnold.

Winners of their last four matches, the Zips will return home to face Hartwick next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

The Battle for Ohio: Part II

AKRON, OH - September 24, 2013 - The last time we used this headline Zanesville Athletic was facing off against AFC Cleveland in NPSL action. Now the calendar has shifted to the collegiate season and Ohio's top two collegiate sides are facing off in a nationally televised matchup.

Photo Credit: Brent Durken/ISNSoccer.comThe No. 10 University of Akron men's soccer team dominated early and held on late in a 1-0 victory over Ohio State in front of 3,328 fans Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

Zac Portillos scored the match's lone goal in the seventh minute and Robbie Derschang made a key defensive play late to preserve the win for the Zips, who improved to 6-2-0 on the year.

For the second consecutive match, Akron jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first half. Adam Najem initiated the play with a rocket that banged off the right cross bar and fell perfectly at the feet of Portillos, who cashed in from straight away with a shot that sailed over the keeper and into the back of the net.

UA was in complete control in the first half, out-shooting OSU 7-1 overall and putting three shots on frame, but a second goal did not come.

The Zips' pressure continued after the break and UA nearly broke through in the 56th minute when Najem sent a corner in from the left side of the field. Portillos squared it up and fired from 12 yards out, but the Ohio State keeper, Alex Ivanov, who finished the night with five stops, got a hand up to deflect it off the cross bar and out of harm's way.

Chasing the equalizer, the Buckeyes (2-3-2) threw numbers forward late and created a few frantic moments in the final 20 minutes.

One particularly dangerous moment came in the 86th minute when Alec Lowell whipped an OSU corner kick in that skipped across the goal and found the foot of Zach Mason. But Derschang crashed across the box and and blocked the shot to neutralize the threat.

The superb play of Zips goalkeeper Fernando Pina was also crucial in the final moments as the redshirt freshman did a commendable job managing his box on potentially dangerous Ohio State set pieces to earn his second consecutive clean sheet.

For the match, Akron out-shot Ohio State 15-6 and allowed just one shot on goal.

The Zips will next jump back into Mid-American Conference play this Sunday when they travel to West Virginia for a 7 p.m. kick off.

Match Photos

Akron Men's Soccer Takes Down Bowling Green 1-0 in MAC Opener

AKRON, OH - September 21, 2013 - Despite soggy field conditions that slowed play through the majority of the match, the No. 15 University of Akron men's soccer team gutted out a 1-0 victory over Bowling Green Saturday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

The game served as the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.

The Zips (5-2-0, 1-0-0 MAC), who have won at least a share of the last eight MAC regular-season championships, got a first-half goal from Reinaldo Brenes and held on for their 15th consecutive win over the Falcons. With the result, UA also pushed its NCAA record-setting conference unbeaten streak to 48 matches (45-0-3) while out-shooting BGSU 20-9 overall and 7-3 on goal.

Akron was in control throughout the match and had a number of quality scoring chances early but didn't break through until the 44th minute.

Eric Stevenson, who was a big factor throughout the contest, sprung Brenes with a through ball just as the senior slipped through the Falcons' back line. Brenes took a quick touch before squaring up a rocket that whistled past the keeper and into the back corner of the net from 12 yards out.

Brenes, a team tri-captain, has been a real spark to the Zips' attack this season as all three of his goals have been game-winners. In all, it was his seventh career game-winner in a Zips uniform.

It very well could have been the second or third goal of the first half for Brenes, who rang the cross bar with a flying header in the 27th minute and was turned away from close range in the 31st minute.

Nonetheless, for the first time this season, Akron took a lead into halftime with just its second first-half goal of the fall.

The game opened up a bit in the second half as Bowling Green (1-4-2, 0-1-0) pushed for the equalizer, but Akron limited the Falcons' chances and were rarely threatened. Conversely, UA pressured the Bowling Green goal often – out-shooting BGSU 10-4 after the break – but couldn't add on to its lead.

Akron had a particularly dangerous series midway through the second half that featured a trio of shots on goal by Adam Najem, Zac Portillos and Stevenson – but the Falcons' keeper, Michael Wiest, who finished with five saves.

Freshman goalkeeper Fernando Pina recorded three saves to earn his third clean sheet of the season.

The Zips will wrap up their four-game homestand Tuesday night when in-state rival Ohio State pays visit to FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field for a 7 p.m. ET kick. The game will be broadcast locally on the radio by FOX Sports 1350 AM (WARF) as well as streamed on NSCAATV.com as the NSCAA College Game of the Week.

Crew Academy Product Downs San Diego State In Double OT

AKRON, OH - September 15, 2013 - With a pair of goals, including the game-winner in the 105th minute, senior Eric Stevenson lifted the No. 7 University of Akron men’s soccer team to a 2-1 double overtime victory over San Diego State Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.

With the score knotted at 1-all, freshman Adam Najem sent a corner kick to the near post where Stevenson gathered it, made a turned and sent a needle through the Aztecs’ defense and into the back of the net.

It was Stevenson’s fifth game-winning goal of his Akron career and the second time he has scored multiple goals in a match. With the win, the Zips improved to 4-2-0 while dropping SDSU to 2-3-0.

For the first time this season, UA scored a goal in the first half thanks to an impressive strike from Stevenson in the 11th minute. The Columbus native gave Akron the 1-0 lead when he took possession of a deflected shot and fired it home from the top of the box.

Unfortunately for the Zips, however, their lead didn’t last long as San Diego St. countered with a soft goal to equalize following an Akron turnover deep in their own territory. SDSU’s Kody Duff jumped on an ill-advised pass and set up teammate Abraham Villon, who buried it from close range.

After allowing three shots against VCU Friday night, UA allowed just six – including two on frame – to San Diego State Sunday. The Zips out-shot the Aztecs 18-2 after the first half and 26-6 overall. In total, eight different Akron players recorded at least one shot on goal, including three from Stevenson.

Stevenson became UA’s first multiple-goal scorer of the season. He last matched the feat with a two-goal effort in the Zips’ 5-0 route of Florida Atlantic last October. With the win, Akron improved to 7-0-1 following a loss during the regular season since 2008 and has not dropped consecutive matches in six years.

Akron’s four-game homestand continues next Saturday when Bowling Green comes to FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field for the Mid-American Conference opener. The Zips and Falcons will kick off at 1 p.m. ET.

VCU, which edged the Zips 1-0 Friday night, defeated Niagara by the same score to win The University of Akron Tournament.

**The University of Akron All-Tournament Team**
Kharlton Belmar, VCU
Assane Keita, VCU
Jose Manel, VCU
Juan Monge Solano, VCU
Reinaldo Brenes, Akron
Victor Souto, Akron
Eric Stevenson, Akron
Blake Hylen, San Diego St.
August Wangberg, San Diego St.
William Banahene, Niagara
Tim Magnusson, Niagara

Tournament Offensive MVP: Dennis Castillo, VCU
Tournament Defensive MVP: Andrew Wells, VCU

Akron Falls to VCU in Battle of Nationally Ranked Sides

AKRON, OH - September 13, 2013 - Friday the 13th turned out to be unlucky for the #7 ranked University of Akron men’s soccer team as they fell 1-0 to the visiting #19 VCU Rams in their own tournament.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Jr./ISNSoccer.comThe Zips absolutely dominated their opponents on the stat sheet, posting a 28-3 advantage in shots and a 7-1 edge on corners.  But we all know that games are played on the pitch, not on an Excel worksheet.

Adam Najem and Columbus Crew Academy product Eric Stevenson led Akron with five shots apiece.  The problem was that the finishing touch was just not there, which was frustrating for Akron fans, players, and coaches alike.

“We couldn’t find a goal,” Akron head coach Jared Embick commented. “We fell asleep in one moment and they punished us. You know it’s disappointing. We struggled to score goals, but we have to keep searching for ways to score goals. Someone has to step up.”

The stellar performance of VCU keeper Andrew Wells, who finished with a clean sheet and 7 saves, was also a factor in the loss.

“He is a very good goalkeeper,” VCU head coach Dave Giffard stated. “We feel pretty good about him back there. I thought he had a very good night.”

It was a Dennis Castillo goal in the 75th that proved to be the difference as the Costa Rican headed in a cross from fellow countryman Juan Monge Solano.  The night’s only goal was a nail in the coffin for the Zips as the home team failed to land a single goal of their own. The equalizing goal was as elusive as ever.

Even former Chelsea FC Academy player Ismail Seremba, who has sparked the attack coming off the bench, couldn’t connect on 4 shots in his first career start.

But all is not lost as Akron will have a chance to redeem themselves on Sunday facing the Aztecs of San Diego State in the final match of the tourney.  SDSU defeated Niagara 2-0 in Friday’s early match.

Another great crowd is certainly expected on Sunday afternoon, but it remains to be seen if they will be exceed the 3,319 that braved unpredictable weather on Friday evening.

Match Photos

UA Men's Soccer Comes From Behind To Stun Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, NJ - September 8, 2013 - A penalty kick by Reinaldo Brenes in the 105th minute lifted the No. 5 University of Akron men's soccer team to a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory in double overtime at Rutgers on Sunday at Yurcak Field.

Just five minutes into the second overtime period, Matt Foldesy split a pair of Scarlet Knight defenders with a great through ball that found Saad Abdul-Salaam, who was tackled from behind before he could get a shot off.

It was a remarkably similar situation to Friday night's double-overtime defeat at No. 23 St. John's. Only this time, a foul was called when Abdul-Salaam went down and Brenes made Rutgers pay with his second game-winner in three matches.

UA (3-1-0) had to play from behind for the first time this season when Rutgers' Kene Eze headed a cross from the left side of the field into the right corner of the net in the 54th minute.

The Zips nearly got it right back, however, when a long pass from beyond midfield sprung Brenes, who found himself all alone with the keeper from the near right flank, but his liner bounced across the goal and banged off the far post and out.

With the clock running out on the Zips, Ismail Seremba, who entered the match after RU's goal, then found the equalizer in the 85th minute. The true freshman from London, England, took a quick pass from Eric Stevenson and buried it into the left corner of the net from the top of the box.

Seremba has been a big factor in each of the Zips' last three matches – all as a reserve. He assisted on the game-winning goal against Furman last weekend and aided in another score Friday night at St. John's prior to today's heroics.

From the 87th minute on, Rutgers (1-2-1) was forced to play a man down. Drew Morgan received a red card after tackling Brenes on a breakaway. Morgan was yellow carded in the eighth minute.

After a slow first half, the Zips responded quickly after Rutgers' goal and outshot the Scarlet Knights 28-8 for the match, while earning a 15-3 advantage in corner kicks.

Seremba was one of a handful of reserves that provided a big boost Sunday. Adam Najem, who had five shots (three on frame), Louis Cross and Brett Gravatt each played meaningful minutes off the bench.

After opening the first four matches on the road, the Zips will return to FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field next weekend for the annual University of Akron Tournament. UA will host VCU on Friday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. ET and San Diego State on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. ET.

Akron Men's Soccer Falls to St. John's in Double OT

QUEENS, NY - September 6, 2013 - The No. 5 University of Akron men’s soccer team suffered its first setback of the season in a 2-1 double-overtime defeat at No. 23 St. John’s Friday night at Belson Stadium.

Late in the second half, with the score tied at one, the Zips (2-1-0) appeared to catch a break when junior Saad Abdul-Salaam went down in the box while attempting a shot. But no penalty was awarded and the teams went into overtime.

Ironically, it was a penalty kick that did UA in as Red Storm junior Tim Parker earned it in the 106th minute of play and senior Jummy Mulligan tucked it away to hand the Zips their first defeat since Sept. 9 of last season.

Eric Stevenson broke a scoreless tie in the 71st minute with his first goal of the year to give the Zips the lead. Ismail Seremba, who came on in the 69th minute, slipped the ball to Stevenson, who fired a laser from 20 yards into the back left corner of the net from straight on.

It was the second consecutive match Seremba has made an impact as a second-half substitute after assisting the game-winning goal in the 58th minute against Furman last weekend in South Carolina.

But STJ (2-1-0) answered just three minutes later when Jelani Williams set up Josh Godec with a cross from the right side of the field. Godec finished from close range to extend the match.

It was a tough defeat for an Akron side that dominated the large majority of regulation. The Zips allowed just a single shot in the first half and only four in total when the Red Storm found the equalizer in the 74th minute.

Reinaldo Brenes and Aodhan Quinn, who created a number of scoring opportunities for the Zips, each finished with four shots apiece as Akron out-shot St. John’s, 12-10, overall.

Both teams spent the first 15 minutes of the match feeling each other out. But a pair of Quinn shots within a five-minute period sparked the Zips’ attack. It was a very active half for Quinn in all as the senior nearly sprung Stevenson and Brenes for goals and put a shot of his own on frame in the first 45 minutes.

Akron’s best chance early on may have come during the 28th minute when Louis Cross sent a through ball into the middle of the field where Quinn redirected it to Stevenson, who was streaking down the right flank. But before he could get a shot off, the keeper came off his line to smother the play.

Then, right before the break, Quinn chipped a ball over the Red Storm’s back line that landed in front of Brenes. The Hermann Trophy candidate ran it down, took contact from a trio of STJ defenders and went down in the box but the referee said play on.

Each team had a single shot in the first overtime period but both were quality. Mulligan got past his mark and had a go from distance early on but his shot sailed high. Brenes was on the receiving end of an Akron counter attack but his curling shot from the near left flank was just wide of the far post.

The Zips will next make a short trip across the New York/New Jersey border to play at Rutgers Sunday, starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Akron Men's Soccer Wins College of Charleston Tournament

MT. PLEASANT, SC - September 1, 2013 -  The No. 8 University of Akron men's soccer team used a second-half goal from Reinaldo Brenes to defeat Furman, 1-0, Sunday at Patriots Point and win the Nike/Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic Tournament, hosted by the College of Charleston.

Brenes' decisive strike came in the 58th minute when Ismail Seremba, who had just entered the match, collected an Akron corner kick and slipped the ball to Brenes with space in front of the net. The Hermann Trophy candidate and UA's leading goal scorer from 2012, turned and buried it from 12 yards out for his first goal of the fall.

For their performances this weekend, Brenes, Bryan Gallego, Aodhan Quinn and Eric Stevenson were named to the All-Tournament team. After directing the Zips to a pair of shutouts to start the season, Gallego was also named Tournament MVP.

The Zips came out flying early and nearly found the net in the match's first minute when Stevenson chipped a ball to Brenes, who got behind the Furman back line. Brenes couldn't hit it cleanly however as his shot went wide of the right post.

Stevenson found Brenes again in the 12th minute, earning Akron a free kick after a Paladin defender fouled the Hermann Trophy candidate just outside of the penalty area. Quinn took it directly from straight on but the keeper was there to scoop it up.

In all, it was a dominant first 45 minutes for Akron, which played the large majority of the half in the final third of the field. Nonetheless, the teams went into the break locked in a scoreless tie.

The Zips will head to the St. John's Tournament next weekend where they will face the host Red Storm Friday at 8 p.m. ET and Rutgers Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Akron will play SJU in Queens, NY, then jump across the border to play the Scarlet Knights in New Brunswick, NJ.

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