On a chilly and snowy Northeastern Ohio Saturday evening, the Zips’ hot Mid-American Conference streak continued as they beat the Northern Illinois Huskies (7-4-0; 1-1) 4-0 at FirstEnergy Stadium at Cub Cadet Field. The Akron Zips (10-2-1; 2-0) were helped by hat-trick hero Richie Laryea (goals at 12:02 of the first half, and 59:23 and 61:02 of the second half). Victor Souto collected a first half goal.
“I enjoyed it,” an excited Akron head coach Jared Embrick said of his team’s performance. ”There’s moments of that are championships, but you also remember times when teams played well, and tonight was one of those nights. Guys were having fun, we passed the ball well, we got a lot of chances and didn’t give much up. That’s just as enjoyable some times. ”
Akron now leads the table in the Mid-American Conference, as they have won both matches (beating Buffalo 2-1 in New York on October 9th). Akron has not lost in October, as they have won six straight, their last loss coming against #8 Wake Forest on September 22nd.
“I think (the success) is a coming together that started last year,” Embick added. “When you start freshman, they will experience a lot and with that work and now you are seeing just the belief come out. The talent has been there, but sometimes it takes a while for them to come together. And I think you are seeing the continuity.”
Akron finally got the breakthrough with 12:02 remaining in the half. A Goncalo Soares shot got deflected, right to the foot of Richie Laryea. The sophomore midfielder sprawled out for the ball and nudged it into the back of the net as Huskies’ keeper Andrew Glaeser was out of position by his save as the ball bounced and deflected off the Zips attackers.
“It was good play all around from us,” Laryea said of his performance. “I got lucky on the first one, it was scrappy, but it got the job done.”
Akron quickly scored again (36:09 mark of the half) as Victor Souto took an excellent right-footed shot from outside the box that was placed perfectly in the right corner from 30 yards out. The half shot-half chip was unstoppable as the ball came out to Souto off the corner and gave Akron a commanding 2-0 lead.
Jake Fenlason prevented the Huskies from getting into the game and scoring right before the half, as the Zips keeper made an unbelievable save to keep NIU off the board. It was one of his five saves on the night. Akron commanded the shot column, doubling NIU’s total 10-5 in the first; 13-5 on the evening. It was also Akron’s fifth clean sheet of the year.
The second half saw the Zips continue to pressure Northern Illinois’ backline as they came close several times in the opening minutes of the half. It was Laryea again that was in the right spot and walloped an open net shot in front of the box with 30:37 left in the second half. Huskies’ keeper Glaeser made an excellent save of a long Gainford shot, but could not handle the ball and Laryea pushed the Zips further 3-0.
“On the second goal, Sam (Gainford) did a good job on the ball as he should have scored himself, but I was able to follow up on the play,” the goal scorer added.
Completing the hat trick just a few minutes after his second, Laryea was fed an excellent pass though the Huskies’ defense. Laryea side-stepped the slide tackle from the last defender and beat the defenseless keeper and the Zips led 4-0 with a half an hour to go. Sores’ pass threaded the NIU back line. That goal was Laryea’s ninth of the year, which breaks his lead with Adam Najem on the club, who has six on the year. It was also the first time the Zips scored four goals in match in 2015.
“When you train hard, you know by habit to come out hard and play at a high-tempo,” the coach added. “Tonight you saw us play at our tempo and we got stronger.”
Akron will stay at home with a non-conference match with Michigan State on Wednesday October 21. They head to Western Michigan on October 24 (Saturday) to continue their MAC schedule. The Huskies will head home to play Loyola-Chicago on the same evening.