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UA Men’s Soccer Season Ends In Overtime At Marquette

The University of Akron men’s soccer team saw its NCAA Tournament run come to an end in the second round with a 1-0 defeat to No. 9-seed Marquette in freezing temperatures and a rock-hard playing surface at Valley Fields Sunday night.

After a scoreless regulation, the Golden Eagles (13-5-2) bagged the Golden Goal in the first overtime period with just 23 seconds left. Coco Navarro, who got free when an Akron defender slipped and fell to the ground, finished a long cross from Adam Lysak to give Marquette its first NCAA Tournament win in program history.

“It was disappointing for two teams who like to play soccer to have their game decided by the conditions of the field,” said UA head coach Jared Embick. “But give Marquette credit. They found a way to make a play.”

“Both teams had to hit long balls in the channels to decide the game. It’s not what you want. Both teams had to adapt through it and unfortunately, a slip on the field hurt us in the moment, and (Marquette) capitalized.”

It was a startling conclusion for the Zips (17-4-1), who nearly won the match in regulation when Zac Portillos banged a liner off the right post in the 76th minute. Then, just five minutes into overtime, Akron thought it had won a penalty kick opportunity when Reinaldo Brenes appeared to be tackled from behind in the box but no call came.

With temperatures that hovered in the low 20s and wind that made it feel much colder, players on both sides struggled to get solid footing on the frozen pitch and the pace of play suffered as a result.

After being out-shot 10-5 in the first half, UA settled in after the break and had the better of play but couldn’t cash in. Third-year sophomore Jake Fenlason turned in another commendable performance with nine saves – the most by an Akron goalkeeper all season – in a losing effort.

Much of the action took place in the middle third of the field in the first half.

The Zips had their best chance of the half in the 34th minute when Eric Stevenson chipped a ball over a Marquette defender for Brenes, who was streaking down the left side of the field. Brenes took a quick touch to avoid the MU goalkeeper, who had come off his line, but couldn’t quite get control of it as his shot hit the side netting.

Fenlason had to make three saves in the opening period as the Zips dealt with a number of dangerous crosses by the Golden Eagles. MU’s best look came in the 27th minute when a cross found C. Nortey with space in the midde of the box but hooked it wide of the left post.

In all, the Golden Eagles, who captured their first Big East Tournament Championship last weekend, out-shot the Zips 19-15. With the win, Marquette advances to play at No. 8-seed Virginia in the third round of the NCAA Tournament next Sunday (Dec. 1).

Akron Men’s Soccer Ready to Compete for National Title

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Jr./

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.

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Jr./

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.”

Photo Credit: Gary L. Moody Jr./

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

Event Photos

Liverpool’s Gainford Joins Embick at Akron

University of Akron head men’s soccer coach Jared Embick announced Monday that English winger Sam Gainford has signed a national letter of intent to play for the Zips next fall.

Gainford, who trained at Liverpool Academy since age 10, was a member of the club’s Under-18 team where he played forward and attacking midfield. The native of Whitehaven also played in several NextGen Series games for Liverpool U-21. He is expected to play forward for the Zips.

Gainford, who will have four years of eligibility at UA, joins the Zips’ original 10-player signing class announced in May, which includes Clint Caso, Louis Cross, Robby Dambrot, Jonny DeMoya, Riley Grant, Brett Gravatt, Adam Najem, Tyler Sanda, Ismail Seremba and Victor Souto.

Gainford is the third English recruit added by Embick this offseason. Cross, a native of Lancashire, is a product of Blackpool FC Academy and Seremba, who hails from London, comes from Chelsea Academy.

In all, the Zips will welcome 10 incoming freshman and a college transfer in 2013.

Akron swept the Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament titles for the fifth time in six years last season and advanced to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year. UA will return nine letterwinners and five starters for Embick’s first year at the helm.

Akron Reloads with Strong Signings

Many critics worried about the direction of the Akron men’s soccer program after the departure of Caleb Porter to MLS.  If this signing class is any indication, there is absolutely no reason to worry.  New head coach (and Porter’s former top assistant) Jared Embick is picking up where Porter left off.  The future of Akron men’s soccer is very bright.  As they always say “Akron doesn’t rebuild; they just reload.”

That was certainly the case here as Embick officially announced the 10 members of the Zips’ 2013 signing class Monday.

In all, the Zips will welcome nine incoming freshmen and a college transfer. Furthermore, the group includes a member of the U.S. Under-18 national team player pool, two high school All-Americans and three internationals. We are talking about players associated with the likes of npower Championship side Blackpool, EPL giant Chelsea, legendary Brazilian club Corinthians, and Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls. Very impressive indeed.

And sources tell us the 2014 class is going to be even better.  That’s not a surprise as early commit Bryce Cregan was coveted by many top programs across the country.  But he chose Akron and did it early.

Midfielder Clint Caso (Kinnelson, N.J./St. Benedict Preparatory School/N.Y. Red Bulls Academy/New Hampshire), defender Louis Cross (Lancashire, England/Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School/Blackpool FC Academy), midfielder Robby Dambrot (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary HS/Internationals SC), goalkeeper Jonny DeMoya (Olney, Md./Sherwood HS/Baltimore Bays Academy), defender Riley Grant (Copley, Ohio/Copley-Fairlawn HS/Internationals SC), defender Brett Gravatt (Dunn Loring, Va./IMG Academy [Fla.]), midfielder Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J./Paramus Catholic/ N.Y. Red Bulls Academy), midfielder Tyler Sanda (North Royalton, Ohio/St. Ignatius HS/Internationals SC), striker Ismail Seremba (London, England/Chelsea Academy) and midfielder Victor Souto (Sao Paolo, Brazil/Sport Club Corinthians Paulista) will continue their careers with the Zips this fall.

Souto has gotten a headstart on his fellow recruits, enrolling at Akron in January. He looked sharp in spring scrimmages and looks to be a player that can contribute immediately.

“We feel we have put together a strong class that enhances the quality and depth of our team,” Embick said. “It is important that our players have the ability to play the Akron way and we feel we have done a great job of identifying talented players who will adapt quickly to our system. All these players are technically gifted and have a high soccer IQ and we are confident they will help continue the success and tradition of Akron soccer.”

Akron swept the Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament titles for the fifth time in six years in 2012 and claimed the nation’s No. 1-ranking in the final poll of the regular season before advancing to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year. UA will return nine letterwinners and five starters this fall, including leading goal scorer Reinaldo Brenes and center back Bryan Gallego.

The success of the program is both a blessing and a curse. The top recruits want to play there, but they often leave early to pursue a pro career. Often times quality players choose to transfer as was the case this spring as four players left the program in search of more playing time.

This offseason was much of the same as Dillon Serna, Wil Trapp, and DeAndre Yedlin left for the riches of MLS.  Chad Barson and Scott Caldwell signed Homegrown Player contracts while David Meves went in the MLS Supplemental Draft. Even Tommy Schmitt, who started his senior season as a top pro prospect, continues to ply his trade as one of the top strikers in the NPSL.

Clint Caso, MF, Kinnelon, N.J. (St. Benedict Preparatory School/N.Y. Red Bulls Academy/New Hampshire)
New York Red Bulls Academy … helped the Red Bulls win the USYSA New Jersey U-15 State Championship in 2008 and qualified for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week … was a two-time, first team all-state honoree at St. Benedict Preparatory School … led St. Benedict’s Prep to three straight New Jersey State Prep Championships (2008-2010) … appeared in eight matches, making six starts, at the University of New Hampshire as a freshman … recorded an assist and nine shots on goal for the Wildcats, who advanced to the championship match of the America East Tournament.

Louis Cross, D, Lancashire, England (Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School/Blackpool FC Academy)
Developed in Blackpool FC Academy since he was eight years old … Blackpool FC youth team captain … captained his country on a tour of Scandinavia and was named England’s U-16 Independent Soccer Player of the Year … also named League Football Education’s Apprentice of the Month for February of 2013.

Robby Dambrot, MF/D, Akron, Ohio (St. Vincent-St. Mary HS/Internationals SC)
Three-time all-district honoree … team MVP … led St. Vincent-St. Mary High School to the regional championship in 2007 and a runner-up finish in 2008 … totaled 15 goals and 26 assists in three years for the Irish … played club soccer for Internationals SC of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy during his senior year … won seven consecutive state cup championships from 2006-2012 … rated a three-star recruit by Top Drawer Soccer … also earned a varsity letter in basketball … son of current Zips men’s basketball head coach Keith Dambrot.

Jonny DeMoya, GK, Olney, Md. (Sherwood HS/Baltimore Bays Academy)
Played club soccer for the Baltimore Bays of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy … 2011 All-Gazette (Md.) honoree … rated a three-star recruit by Top Drawer Soccer.

Riley Grant, D, Copley, Ohio (Copley-Fairlawn HS/Internationals SC)
Rated 12th-best prospect in the Great Lakes Region and a four-star recruit, according to Top Drawer Soccer … led Copley-Fairlawn High School to district and regional championships, and the state semifinals as a junior … scored 16 goals, including seven game-winners, while tallying eight assists in that breakout season, earning All-Ohio Second Team honors … played club soccer for the Internationals SC of the US Soccer Development Academy as a senior … played on three Ohio Youth Soccer Association North State Cup Champion teams (2010, 2011, 2012) … also played club soccer with Everest SC Black (2009-12) and Ohio Select Futbol Club (2005-09).

Brett Gravatt, D, Dunn Loring, Va. (IMG Academy [Fla.])
Product of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. … scored 10 goals in his first two seasons … spent time training in Barcelona and Holland … invited to the Dallas Cup three times … three-star recruit, according to Top Drawer Soccer.

Adam Najem, MF, Clifton, N.J. (Paramus Catholic HS/N.Y. Red Bulls Academy)
No. 1-ranked recruit in the state of New Jersey and No. 7 midfielder in the country, according to Top Drawer Soccer … rated a five-star recruit by TDS … member of the U.S. Under-18 National Team player pool … NSCAA Boys Youth All-American … member of the New York Red Bulls Academy of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy … led his Under-16 Academy team to the national title in 2012 with the game-winning assist … ranked No. 35 on ESPNHS’s Top 150 Class of 2013.

Tyler Sanda, MF, North Royalton, Ohio (St. Ignatius HS/Internationals SC)
NSCAA High School All-American … rated 13th-best prospect in the Great Lakes Region and a four-star recruit by Top Drawer Soccer … Ohio’s co-Player of the Year in Division I and a first-team all-state honoree … named Mr. Soccer for 2012 by the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association … first-team All-Greater Cleveland and Greater Cleveland Player of the Year … finished his high school career with 29 goals, including seven game-winners, and 19 assists … led the powerhouse Wildcats program, which won the national championship in 2010, to a collective record of 82-3-3 … played club soccer for the Internationals SC of the US Soccer Development Academy.

Ismail Seremba, F, London, England (Chelsea Academy)
Ugandan descent, London-born … with the Chelsea Academy since the Under-13′s… debuted in the Chelsea Under 18-team during the 2010-11 season, scoring two goals in seven appearances … made 24 appearances, including 11 starts, the following season and found the back of the net five times … also made three appearances in reserve matches.

Victor Souto, MF, Sao Paolo, Brazil (Sport Club Corinthians Paulista)
Developed in Corinthians prestigious youth academy for 10 years … captain of Corinthians Youth National Championship squad in 2009.

ISN’s University of Akron men’s soccer coverage is proudly presented by Expedia® CruiseShipCenters®. Cruise? All-Inclusive? Vegas? Call Bob Hasinski at 440-724-3513 for a great deal on a vacation of a lifetime! Bob can also be reached at [email protected]. You won’t be sorry if you book your next vacation with Bob Hasinski and Expedia® CruiseShipCenters®.

Late Equalizer Gives Akron Draw with Maryland

The University of Akron men’s soccer team wrapped up its spring exhibition schedule on a strong note, playing 2012 NCAA semifinalist Maryland to a 1-1 draw at Ludwig Field Saturday.

The Zips, who were playing without starters Reinaldo Brenes and Robbie Derschang due to injuries, rallied from a 1-0 deficit when Zac Portillos took a pass from Aodhan Quinn and buried the equalizer late in the match.

“We came here to win so we’re not satisfied with the draw,” said UA head coach Jared Embick. “That being said, we had an outstanding effort from our players. In particular, some of our young players grew a lot today and performed well against an elite team. I am excited for the potential of our team next fall.”

UA lost its third starter to injury in the 41st minute when Bryan Gallego came off after a collision. The Terrapins took advantage, drawing first blood just minutes later when Jereme Raley finished a cross from Mikey Ambrose.

Saturday’s match capped off another strong spring season for UA. In all, the Zips posted a record of 3-1-1 in five exhibitions and outscored the opposition 7-2 despite a rash of injuries and new personnel. Moreover, in its four contests against NCAA Tournament qualifiers from a year ago, the Zips went 3-0-1.

ISN’s University of Akron men’s soccer coverage is proudly presented by Expedia® CruiseShipCenters®. Cruise? All-Inclusive? Vegas? Call Bob Hasinski at 440-724-3513 for a great deal on a vacation of a lifetime! Bob can also be reached at [email protected]. You won’t be sorry if you book your next vacation with Bob Hasinski and Expedia® CruiseShipCenters®.