NCAA Championship: Akron Downs Michigan, Advances To Round Of 16

Caleb Porter and Darlington Nagbe's mother Somah Nagbe with MLS Commissioner Don Garber during the 2011 MLS SuperDraft - Ned Dishman

Caleb Porter's fifth-seeded Akron Zips took on Michigan in the second round of the NCAA Division I Soccer Tournament. Akron, the home team, defeated Michigan 2-1 to advance to the round of 16 for fifth consecutive year.

Unfortunately, due to a spotty stream I missed much of the first half. The stream came back in time to see Akron midfielder Eric Stevenson take a cracking shot from outside the box, which sailed just wide of the post. He followed it up with another just a minute later, which was blocked.

Akron dominated possession in the first half, or at least the latter part of it. They pressured the ball as soon as they lost it, even in their own attacking third, which made it difficult for the Wolverines to get anything going. The Zips were getting some dangerous chances as a reward for all their hard work. In the 38th minute, Akron forced the Michigan keeper Adam Grinwis into two excellent saves and got off a third shot that was blocked before the Michigan defense finally cleared it out.

Finally, in the 43rd minute, Stevenson beat the keeper with another rocket from the top of the box. This time it was on frame and in the back of the net.

After the goal, Michigan put real pressure on the Zips for the first time since I had started watching, but Akron went into halftime up 1-0.

Second Half

It looked as though Michigan would come out the bigger attacking threat in the second half, getting their first shot off barely a minute in. After that though, Akron once again had the better of the possession and the chances. Stevenson saw a shot hit the crossbar in the 48th minute and got on the end of a through-ball in the 50th, but his first touch was too heavy and the keeper beat him to the ball. Scott Caldwell and Thomas Schmitt were also seeing good opportunities but were having trouble keeping them on frame until the 59th minute, when Schmitt chipped the keeper to give Akron goal number two.

At this point, everything was going right for the Zips. Every time a pass was deflected or a Michigan player poked the ball away, that ball would find it's way back to Akron.

That changed a little in the 61st minute, when a scuffle broke out in Akron's defensive third. Without a replay, it was difficult to see what had happened, but it left Akron defender Robbie Derschang sprawled on the ground and Akron fans screaming for a red card, which they got when the Wolverines' Colin Mcatee was sent off.

In spite of all that, Michigan ended up with a free kick from the top of the box. Tyler Arnone teed the ball up for James Murphy, who shot it low and hard, beating both the wall and the keeper, and cutting Akron's lead in half.

Akron looked unsettled after Michigan's goal and they started playing faster and sloppier. They gave up another dangerous free kick just moments later. This one, fortunately, was right to Akron goalkeeper David Meves.

The game was much more back and forth from then on with the teams trading chances. Akron fans thought they had gotten a third in the 68th, but Caldwell's shot had hit the side netting. Both keepers had to make some huge saves as Michigan sought an equalizer and Akron tried to put the game away. Ultimately, neither team's efforts amounted to anything and when the whistle blew, the game finished 2-1 in Akron's favor.

General observations

  • As it had been a long time since I had watched college soccer, there were a few things I had to get used to. The clock, for example, counts down from 45 each half instead of up to 90. It also stops when play stops. Players who were subbed out later returned to the game and there is apparently no limit on subsitutions.
  • Akron played a 4-3-3 with fullbacks who were very much a part of the attack, getting involved on virtually every offensive play. On the other hand, one of the midfielders, Wil Trapp, sat so deep he was almost a stopper.
  • Eric Stevenson was Akron's biggest attacking threat, whether he was taking the shots or trying to set up his teammates.
  • Adam Grinwis, Michigan's keeper, really kept them in the game. Michigan could have been down by three or four without some big moments from Grinwis.
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