AKRON, Ohio – The 14th-ranked University of Akron men's soccer team registered three second-half goals, including a pair from sophomore David Egbo (Enugu, Nigeria), to garner a 3-1 victory over Rider (10-10-1) in the Opening Round of the NCAA Tournament on a snow-swept evening at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field on Thursday, Nov. 15.
The triumph advances the Zips (11-6-2) into a second-round date at 16th-seeded and 20th-ranked Syracuse on Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. in Syracuse, N.Y. The tilt will be a rematch of the regular-season encounter won by the Orange on Oct. 1, 3-1, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Akron broke open a tightly-contested opening half outshooting the Broncs, 16-6, over the final 45 minutes of regulation, en route to posting a 22-12 advantage in shots, including 6-5 on goal.
Senior Abdi Mohamed (Westerville, Ohio) proved to be dual-threat for the Zips at both ends of the field as he recorded a game-high five shots. Egbo and freshman Sam Tojaga (Erie, Pa) added four and three shots, respectively, for Akron. Pablo DeCastro, who accounted for Rider's lone goal, led the Broncs with a team-high five shots.
Senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) helped the Zips earn the victory making four saves, while Garrett Potter made three stops for Rider.
The Broncs registered five of the first six shots on the evening, including strikes by DeCastro and Arthur Herpreck at the 10:25 and 14:13 marks, respectively, that were thwarted by saves from Lundt.
Akron's best scoring chance in the opening stanza came in the 45th minute (44:16) when redshirt sophomore Diogo Pacheco (Lisbon, Portugal) unleashed a laser in the box, off a pass from Mohamed, that Potter denied with a save.
The two sides entered the intermission locked in a scoreless contest with each side posting six first-half shots.
Tojaga nearly got the Zips on the board at the 48:52 mark as his strike in the box narrowly missed bending into the corner of the net for a goal.
Just over a minute later in the 51st minute (50:16), Egbo intercepted the ball from the Rider defender and found his way to the top of the box where he connected on his team-leading 11th goal of the season to give Akron a 1-0 lead.
Freshman Colin Biros (Canton, Ohio), who was stout for the Zips in the midfield on the night, came up just wide on his shot at the 58:17 mark.
Lundt delivered a save on a shot by Elliott Otmani in the 62nd minute (61:50), while Potter stopped Mohamed's shot on goal at the 62:39 mark.
The Broncs netter the equalizer in the 78th minute (77:07) when DeCastro headed home his ninth goal of the season off a strong cross into the box from Emmanuel Kouma.
The lead was short-lived as Egbo scored what proved the be the game-winning tally at the 83:13 mark off an assist from senior Morgan Hackworth (Bradenton, Fla.). The goal was Egbo's 12th of the season.
Rider was whistled for a foul in the box on a tackle in the box on senior Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) in the 88th minute (87:15). Stepping to the line and connecting on the penalty kick for his sixth goal of the year was junior Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario). Zajac has now scored a point in seven of Akron's last eight contests.
A scary moment occurred with 8:46 remaining in the opening half when Rider goalkeeper Pablo Gatinois collided with his own player on a battle for the ball in the box. He was down on the field for several minutes before carefully being carried off the field on a stretcher, but Gatinois is expected to be released from the hospital this evening to return home with his teammates on Friday.
The Zips have now won five consecutive games and outshot SIU Edwardsville, West Virginia, Western Michigan and Rider by a combined 74-32 margin, including 28-12 on goal.