AKRON, Ohio - Opportune goals from senior Adam Najem (Clifton, N.J.) and redshirt sophomore Ezana Kahsay (Asmeras, Eritrea) and stout defensive play propelled the 10th-ranked University of Akron men's soccer team to a 2-0 victory past No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (4-2-0) on Monday, Sept. 12, at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The Zips (4-2-0) registered the fourth clean sheet of the season on their home pitch to extend Akron's winning streak at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field to 10 straight dating back to the 2015 campaign. The triumph also marked the third win of the season for Akron over a ranked opponent through six games this season.
The Zips and Gauchos each recorded 11 shots in the affair, with Akron dominating UC Santa Barbara in shots on goal, 7-1.
Redshirt junior Pau Belana (Barcelona, Catalonia) paced the Zips with a team-high three shots, while Kahsay and Najem each added two shots, all which fell on frame.
Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) made one save for Akron en route to notching his fourth shutout of the season. Titouan Le Roux registered five saves in net for the Gauchos.
Najem garnered his second goal of the season and the 29th of his career, capitalizing on a failed defensive clearance in the box at the 10:52 mark. The attempted clearance found Najem just inside the 18-yard box and the Zips' captain delivered a strike for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
Just over three minutes later UC Santa Barbara was whistled for a takedown in the box that resulted in a penalty kick for Akron. Najem stepped to the line, but his attempt was thwarted by a diving save by Le Roux.
Nick DePuy nearly squared the tilt at one in the 44th minute (43:29) for the Gauchos as he got a 1v1 run at Lundt just outside the 18-yard box. Lundt though came up with a diving snare off the foot of DePuy to deny the scoring opportunity.
The two sides each recorded six shots in the initial 45 minutes, with the Zips earning a 3-1 margin in shots on goal.
The second half proved to be a physical battle as a combined 19 fouls and four cards were issued. The Gauchos played the final 15 minutes of the affair a man down.
Each team tried to capitalize on momentum over the final 45 minutes, but it was not until the 82:42 mark that a three-shot flurry from Belana, freshman Jonathan Lewis (Plantation, Fla.) and Kahsay resulted in a Zips' goal.
Belana and Lewis each delivered shots that were saved in the box by Le Roux, before Kahsay knocked in the deflection off of the save of Lewis' attempt for his first goal of the season. Lewis was awarded his team-leading third assist on the campaign on the tally.
Akron head coach Jared Embick praised the defensive efforts in the contest from seniors Danilo Radjen (Broadview Heights, Ohio) and Brad Ruhaak (Akron, Ohio), redshirt sophomore Shane Wiedt (Akron, Ohio) and freshman Nick Hinds (Plantation, Fla.) as key to helping the Zips register the victory.
Akron returns to action traveling to Tulsa, Okla., for an 8 p.m. ET tilt at Tulsa on Friday, Sept. 16.