International Soccer Network

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Najem’s Brace Leads UA Past Cleveland State 2-1

Freshman Adam Najem scored a goal in each half to lead the No. 20 University of Akron men’s soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Cleveland State Wednesday night at Krenzler Field.

It was a convincing bounce-back performance for the Zips (8-3-0), who out-shot the Vikings 11-6 and controlled the large majority of the match. Najem gave UA a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute, then found the back of the net again in the 70th to put the game away. It was the first two goals of his collegiate career.

With the win, Akron avoided dropping back-to-back games for the first time since 2007.

UA’s attack was sharp early on as the Zips locked the Vikings into the finishing third for much of the half. UA was patient with its possession and broke CSU down in the 20th minute.

Reinaldo Brenes initiated the play by running down a long pass from midfield and crossing it to Najem, who found space in front of the net. The true freshman took full advantage with a beautiful strike from straight on that left the keeper no chance. It was Najem’s first goal of the season.

The first goal opened the game up and created some dramatic moments on both sides of the field.Eric Stevenson came close to putting another goal on the board in the 26th minute by rushing in from the near right flank to finish a cross. But his bender banged off the right post and out of harm’s ways.

Cleveland St. created some frantic moments in its finishing third towards the end of the first half but Akron goalkeeper Fernando Pina was up to the challenge, making three saves – including a couple diving stops on CSU restarts – to send the Zips to a 1-0 lead at the break.

Najem gave UA a two-goal lead in the second half by finishing a cross from Saad Abdul-Salaam. Akron was rarely threatened in the second half until CSU’s Sergio Manesio cut the Zips’ lead in half with less than three minutes to play on a breakaway.

The Zips will next return home to take on Wake Forest Tuesday night. The Zips and Demon Deacons will kick off at 7 p.m. ET.