The University of Akron advanced to its second consecutive Men’s Soccer National Championship Game with a 2-1 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in a national semifinal game played in Santa Barbara, California.
The Zips broke a 1-1 tie in the 73rd minute when Kofi Sarkodie headed in a free kick struck by Michael Nanchoff from the right of the penalty box across the mouth of the goal.
Sarkodie was unguarded and calmly flicked the ball with his head into the back of the net. The Zips, after the goal, were able to kill the clock by passing the ball around the pitch while the Wolverines gave chase. Michigan did not have another serious scoring chance.
The Wolverines (17-5-3) scored the first goal of the game just two minutes into the contest. Senior Justin Meram scored his 17th goal of the year from near the top of the circle outside the penalty area, driving a hard shot into the upper-left corner net past the sprawling Akron netminder, David Meves.
Michigan held the 1-0 lead until the 33rd minute of the game when Zips freshman Perry Kitchen drilled a shot from 35 yards out that beat Wolverines goaltender Chris Blais. Akron out-shot Michigan 14-4 in the first half, but could not take the lead due to a number of critical saves from Blais.
The teams played even until the 73rd minute when Scott Caldwell was fouled from behind by a Michigan defender. This led to the free kick that Sarkodie was able to head home.
The Zips (21-1-2) will face Louisville, the top seed in the tournament at 20-0-3, who defeated North Carolina 2-1 prior to the Akron win.
Last year Akron was unbeaten heading into the championship game against Virginia. The Zips and Cavaliers played to a 0-0 draw, but Virginia claimed the title on penalty kicks, 3-2. Akron will be looking for its first national championship in any sport, and will have to defeat a familiar face to do so. Louisville coach Ken Lolla left the Akron program after the 2005 season to take the head job at Louisville. He was replaced by current Zips coach Caleb Porter.
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