AKRON, Ohio - A goal from freshman Will Jackson (Hudson, Ohio) with 2.7 seconds remaining in regulation lifted the University of Akron men's soccer team to an improbable come-from-behind 3-2 Mid-American Conference victory over Northern Illinois (7-8-1, 2-2-0 MAC) on Senior Night at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 2.
The Zips (5-9-2, 3-0-1 MAC) registered three unanswered goals, including a brace from junior David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria), over the final eight minutes of regulation to erase a 2-0 deficit and earn the triumph.
By virtue of the 0-0 double-overtime draw between SIU Edwardsville and West Virginia, the Zips have secured an opening-round bye at the upcoming MAC Championships (Nov. 15-17). A win or a tie at West Virginia on Thursday, Nov. 7, Akron will claim its 20th regular season league title and first since 2016. The Zips also remain in the driver's seat to host the semifinal and championship matches at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Akron posted a season-best 31 shots in the affair, including a season-best 12 shots on goal. Egbo directed the Zips' offensive attack, equaling a career-high with a team-best seven shots, including a trio on net, en route to netting his fourth career multi-goal match. Adding four, four, three and three shots, respectively, for Akron was senior Christian Lue Young (Plantation, Fla.), freshman Mani Austmann (Gardabaer, Iceland), junior Daniel Strachan (Lakewood, Ohio) and Jackson. Nick Markanich led the Huskies with a team-high two shots.
Northern Illinois goalkeeper Martin Sanchez was stellar in net for the Huskies registering nine saves, while redshirt junior Tor Saunders (Seattle, Wash.) earned the victory without having to make a save.
Jackson's game-winning tally at the 89:57 mark was off a high-arching shot from the corner of the 18-yard box that garnered a fortuitous bounce over a sliding Sanchez and into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season. Earning the assist on the tally was Strachan.
The two sides battled through a scoreless opening 45 minutes with the Zips registering a 12-1 margin in first-half shots, including a 4-0 edge in shots on goal.
Strachan nearly opened the scoring in the match in the fourth minute (3:55) as his header off a free kick from sophomore Colin Biros (Jackson, Ohio) was pulled in for a save by Sanchez. He later added a shot on frame at the 29:19 mark that was again saved by Sanchez.
Redshirt junior Diogo Pacheco (Lisbon, Portugal) struck a ball in the 33rd minute (32:09) that was thwarted by diving save from Sanchez.
Sanchez made another diving save of an Egbo shot in the 36th minute (35:24) on what proved to be Akron's final shot on goal in the opening stanza.
Northern Illinois assumed a 1-0 lead at the 50:03 mark when Alex Welch delivered the Huskies' first corner kick of the night into the corner of the six-yard box where Anthony Markanich headed home his fifth goal on the campaign.
The Zips were unable to register a shot on goal in the second half until Lue Young's strike in the 67th minute (66:49), a shot that was denied by a save from Sanchez.
Pacheco followed with strike on net at the 68:29 mark that was stopped by Sanchez.
Akron was whistled for a foul in the box in the 72nd minute (71:51) resulting in Northern Illinois being awarded a penalty kick. Stepping to the line and connecting on his second goal of the season to push the Huskies' lead to 2-0 was Louis Sala.
Sophomore Pol Hernandez (Teia, Spain) got off a laser in the box at the 78:56 mark for Akron that only a spectacular diving save from Sanchez prevented the Zips from cracking the scoring column.
Facing a two-goal deficit, the Zips faced a pivotal moment in their season and Akron responded beginning with Egbo scoring his sixth goal on the year at the 81:53 mark to bring the Zips within a goal, 2-1. The ball was played in from the wing into the center of the box with a pair of passes for assists from Hernandez and Pacheco.
Just over a minute later in the 83rd minute (82:55), Egbo leveled the match at two with a diving header for his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Austmann added a shot on goal at the 87:24 mark, before Egbo narrowly missed on a one-touch in the six-yard box in the 89th minute (88:36).
Jackson's game-winner sent Akron's four seniors in Skye Harter (Copley, Ohio), Lue Young, Tom Smart (Birmingham, England) and Leonard Sohn (Richmond Hill, Ontario) home victorious on a night where they were honored in pre-game Senior Night festivities.
Up next for Akron, the Zips close out the regular season with a 7 p.m. match at West Virginia on Thursday, Nov. 7, in Morgantown, W.Va.