Heading into the 2019 season, Akron men’s soccer was ranked No. 3 in the nation — but on Saturday, Cornell downed the Zips in a double-overtime thriller.
The Red took its winning streak to three with the 3-2 victory in Ohio. The Red’s aggressive pressing defensive strategy proved sufficient as they managed to finish Akron off in a high-quality game.
The Zips, which hadn’t played at home since September 2 until last weekend, are now 0-7 on the season, despite the high praise the team received coming into the year.
Cornell started strong, pressing high up in Akron’s part of the field, trying to prevent sturdy build-ups by the Zips defense. The Red came out with its powerful backline: with senior center back Ryan Bayne and sophomore center back Tate Keir as the last line of defense and with sophomore defender Jonah Kagen and freshman wingback Connor Drought on the sides providing a lot of pace.
The piece of the team that proved most critical throughout the game, however, was its offense. The attacking positions such as sophomore forward Emeka Eneli, senior forward George Pedlow, and junior forward/midfielder Vardhin Manoj consistently applied pressure when Akron’s defenders had the ball, resulting in sloppy clearances and missed passes for the Zips.
The first significant chance for the Red came in the 22nd minute by a set-piece header. After 15 minutes, freshman midfielder Griffin Garrard provided a beautiful through pass to Connor Drought, who gave Brandon Morales a fantastic cutback, with Morales scoring an easy goal, putting the Red up, 1-0.
However, Akron’s junior forward David Egbo scored an easy header five minutes into the second half. Akron dominated the first 15 minutes of the latter part of the match, putting senior goalkeeper Ryan Shellow to work.
Cornell retook the lead in the 25th minute when junior midfielder Harry Fuller’s free-kick was deflected by Akron’s defender Paul Hernandez and ended up back in his net.
The Red looked like it was coming up with a big win against a historically strong team, but things looked uncertain once more when Akron sophomore Marco Milanese scored on a rebound from a corner kick with six minutes left in the second half, again tying the game.
The Red almost stole the win in regulation time when Morales stole the ball from a defender, resulting in a one-on-one chance. But Akron’s goalie did an excellent job narrowing the angle that Morales could reach and Morales’s desperate last attempt ended up wide. There were six seconds left on the clock.
After the first 10 minutes, the Red and Akron went into double overtime. In the second minute, Fuller’s cross was headed in by Ryan Bayne, and the players went wild as the Red claimed victory.
The game was almost evenly matched, with the Red taking 13 shots and Akron taking 12. However, the Red had the upper hand in offensive efficiency, as they had eight shots on goal and forced Akron’s goalkeeper to make five saves. As a result, the Red snatched the most thrilling win so far on its season.
The Red will be back in action on Saturday in its Ivy opener at Penn.