The No. 18 University of Akron men’s soccer team moved one step closer to securing their ninth-consecutive Mid-American Conference regular season championship with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Northern Illinois Saturday night at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
After being honored as one of five Zips’ seniors in a pre-game ceremony, Robbie Derschang made his Senior Night even more memorable with the game-winning goal in the 76th minute. It was his first goal of the season.
With the victory, UA (11-3-1, 4-1-0 MAC) secured a berth to the MAC Tournament, which will be hosted by the No. 1 seed on Nov. 15 and 17, and can claim the league’s regular season crown with a win at Western Michigan in the regular-season finale on Nov. 9.
With the score tied at 1-all late in the second half, Adam Najem, who scored UA’s first goal in the 12th minute, slipped a quick cross to Derschang on the near right flank. Derschang took a quick touch before firing a shot that zipped across the goal and inside the far post.
Fittingly, all four seniors who played made a positive impact as UA improved to 4-0-1 in its last five matches. The team’s leading goal scorer and senior, Reinaldo Brenes missed his third straight match with a leg injury.
The Zips jumped on top early thanks to Najem’s fourth goal in his last five matches at the 11:25 mark. Derschang initiated the play by running a ball down on the left side of the field before crossing it to Saad Abdul-Salaam, who redirected it to Najem in front of the net.
The freshman stayed hot by burying his shot from 12 yards out to give Akron a 1-0 lead. Najem is now tied with Brenes for the team lead in goals scored with four. Moreover, all four of Najem’s goals have come in the month of October.
Akron’s lead was short lived however as Huskies’ junior striker Isaac Kanaah slipped through the Zips’ back line and skipped a shot by UA goalkeeper Fernando Pina in the 15th minute. Akron nearly got the goal right back just three minutes later when Najem perfectly left the ball for Matt Foldesybut Foldesy’s liner from the wing banged off the left post.
Nonetheless, it was another dominant showing in the stat sheet for UA, which out-shot NIU 18-4 overall and 5-1 on goal. The Zips also posted an 11-2 margin for corner kicks.
Akron will look to continue its winning ways when its jumps back on the road for a mid-week match at Michigan Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET.