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UCSB Men’s Soccer Run Over By Akron in 3-1 Loss

Zips forward Marcel Zajac scored twice to sink the Gauchos

UCSB’s Jan Ilskens contests a clearance by Akron defender Daniel Strachan. The Gauchos suffered a 3-1 loss. Click to view larger
UCSB’s Jan Ilskens contests a clearance by Akron defender Daniel Strachan. The Gauchos suffered a 3-1 loss. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

A late-game surge from UCSB men’s soccer was not enough against the visiting University of Akron Saturday night, as the visiting Zips topped the Gauchos, 3-1, in a nonconference game at Harder Stadium.

Akron controlled most of the game, but a 72nd minute goal by the Gauchos' Rodney Michael briefly heightened the tension. A solid defensive effort by the Zips preserved the victory and kept UCSB winless on the season.

Senior forward Marcel Zajac from Canada finished two goals for the Zips, who since 2007 have compiled the winningest record in all of men’s college soccer. Akron improved to 2-2 with both of their losses coming to nationallyranked opponents.

Meanwhile, UCSB dropped to 0-3-2, the team’s worst start in head coach Tim Vom Steeg’s 19-year career with the Gauchos. The last time a UCSB men’s squad began a season this poorly was in 1998, the year before Vom Steeg was hired.

“We started with no foundation, an all-new defense, a new goalie, and all our midfielders are actually forwards,” Vom Steeg. The Gauchos roster has 15 freshmen and sophomores, and Vom Steeg praised how his team stayed on the ball throughout the game.

“We’re definitely disappointed with not being able to do more,” he said, “but I like what I’m beginning to see.”

From the opening kick, the Zips piled on an aggressive attack. Just past the 5th minute, Zips freshman Joāo Moutinho floated the ball over a pair of Gaucho defenders to his teammate Zajac, who slammed in a goal off the crossbar.

If that didn’t wake the Gauchos up, Akron made sure to assert its command, getting another three clean shots on goal over the next 10 minutes.

Gaucho goalkeeper Ricky Montoy was steadily alert for each of these attempts, scrambling on top of the ball to foil one Akron drive and body blocking another attempt. But the Zips kept pushing forward, allowing just one UCSB shot in the first half. Akron's 6-foot-6 goalkeeper Ben Lundt easily snared the Gaucho shot, barely lifting off the ground to tuck it away.

Shortly after a late first-half UCSB breakaway turned into nothing, Akron broke through for its second score at the 40th minute. Zips senior Sam Gainford inserted a pretty mini-cross to Zajac, who comfortably put the ball into the net for his second score of the game.

Second-half action saw increased desperation from the Gauchos, but Akron’s back line proved extremely tough to penetrate. Finally, a free kick from sophomore Brandon Magpayo at the 72nd minute set up a header by freshman Rodney Michael, whose aggressive play paid off with a goal.

Just two minutes later, UCSB suddenly found themselves setting up an opportunity to tie the score, as sophomore Noah Billingsley and junior Jan Ilskens lined up shots-on-goal in rapid succession. Lundt thwarted Billingsley’s attempt, while Ilsken’s shot rolled wayside to the left of the goalpost.

In the final 6 minutes, the Gauchos blitzed Akron on every pass to try to retain possession, but the Zips successfully played keep-away to burn time off the clock. Michael nearly set up another shot in the 85th minute but fell short. An ensuing Zips breakaway led to a collision between Akron’s Sam Gainford and a Gaucho defender. Gainford was awarded a penalty kick, which he calmly netted to seal the win.

The Zips featured an array of imported talent, including Gainford, who trained at Liverpool Academy, the youth development system for Liverpool FC of the Premier League in England.

"We come here because Santa Barbara's got a great program — it's a difficult match," Akron head coach Jared Embick said after the match. "Also, it's just nice to come visit the beach." 

Noozhawk intern Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

UCSB’s Rodney Michael (white jersey No. 9) beats Akron defender Morgan Hackworth and goalie Ben Lundt for a goal. Click to view larger
UCSB’s Rodney Michael (white jersey No. 9) beats Akron defender Morgan Hackworth and goalie Ben Lundt for a goal. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

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