As a light snow fell at First Energy Stadium University-Cub Cadet Field, the fifth-seeded University of Akron men’s soccer defeated Seattle University 3-0 in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Akron was led by an early first-half goal from senior forward Sam Gainford and a pair of second-half strikes from senior Morgan Holthusen and sophomore Marcel Zajac to put the Zips into the next round.
“We got the early goal and we wanted to get off to a quick start” Akron Zips head coach Jared Embick said of the match. “To have the fans come out in this weather and stand behind us is just humbling and it’s a great honor.”
The Zips collected their 17th win of the season and move on the third round of the Cup with a home match next weekend.
“During the tournament, you have to manage,” Embick said of moving forward. “We’ll improve on certain aspects as we go, but overall I’m very pleased with the performance.”
It did not take long for the Zips to jump out to the lead, as senior midfielder Manuel Corderio and Gainford played a give-and-go in the box. As Gainford received the ball ten yards out from Seattle’s goalie Josh Adachi, Gainford calmly curled a right-footed shot into the right corner on the goal, giving Akron the lead just 6:27 into the match.
“I felt like the goal was coming,” Gainford said. “I played a 1-2 with Manuel and from the penalty spot and put it away.”
It was Gainford’s eighth goal of the year.
“They were down our throats,” Seattle head coach Pete Fewing said of the Zips’ pressure. “I think we had a hard time getting out of our end, we didn’t adjust to playing the ball forward. We were on our heels.”
Noted was the amount of wind that the Redhawks had to contend with in the first half, as the blustery snow made an impact on the match.
The Zips had chances all throughout the first half, ending with seven corner kicks and shots at the half, as the Redhawks were only able to muster a shot without a corner, in just the second-ever matchup between the two schools.
The Zips won 1-0 in the 88th minute in 2016.
“Akron is fantastic,” Fewing exclaimed of the contest. “They played great, they’re clinical in their finishing, and hats off to them. I am proud of my guys; it’s tough to lose.”
The Redhawks beat #26 Washington on Thursday night to extend their season and get into the matchup against the Zips, as they won the 2017 Western Athletic Conference (WAC), but end their season with a 15-4-4 record.
Out of the gate in the second half, the Redhawks hit their first shot on goal and made Zips junior goalkeeper Ben Lundt spring into action.
“It was a really solid performance from the back line,” the Zips keeper said of the defense. “Credit for them for coming through today.”
Seattle showed signs of life in the first ten minutes of the second frame, but did not have much to show for their efforts with creating close chances.
“Anytime it’s a one goal game everyone is a little nervous to some respect,” Embick added. “We were trying to find the right balance to take control of the game. We stayed solid in the back and knew we were going to score.”
Battle for the control of the match was a big key in the second half as both clubs pushed to take over the match.
“I think it took us awhile to get going,” Fewing added. “But the second half was more indicative of how we’ve been playing throughout the season.”
The Zips got back on the board at the 72:10 mark. Lundt, a native of Berlin, Germany, launched a pass to left back Niko De Vera.
De Vera took a few dribbles down the wing and launched a forward ball through the wind and the snow, where Holthusen collected it on stride, beat his defender then put it to the bottom of the left of the net to give the Zips the 2-0 advantage and some room to enjoy their lead. It was the New Zealand senior’s 11th goal of the season.
“It’s not one of the first time Niko and I hooked up like that, but it was nice to get the goal like that,” the Kiwi said of his goal. “(Niko) judged it really well and he’s got a great left foot.”
The Zips sealed the match in the dying moments, when Zajac received the ball on top of the box, twisted his defender around, took a right-footed shot again hit the bottom left of the net. Three clinical goals came from the Zips in their win as they move on in the tournament.
The Zips will now face the winner of the Notre Dame/Wisconsin matchup in in the third round of the tournament at 4:00 pm on November 25 at FirstEnergy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field.