FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU men’s soccer team (1-0-2) controlled the game, but ultimately finished with its second straight double-overtime tie Saturday evening as the Eagles and Akron (0-2-1) played to a 1-1 draw in front of a record 1,574 fans at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
For the second time through the season’s first three games, junior Felipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS) entered after halftime and scored, with his strike against the Zips representing the game-tying tally. DeSousa was fouled outside the box trying to turn to his right and took the ensuing free kick. From there the lethal striker fired a low, driven shot inside the left post from about 25 yards out in the 53rd minute to equal the contest against the 2010 national champions.
In total, FGCU out-shot the 27-time NCAA Tournament participants, 22-11, and forced Akron goalkeeper Jake Fenlason into eight saves – the most stops a non-conference goalie has had to make against the Eagles since USF keeper Jeff Attinella made 13 in the 2010 season opener when FGCU defeated the then-No. 13 ranked Bulls, 2-1.
The Eagles out-played Akron – the second team outside the NSCAA/Continental Tire Top 25 Poll this week behind FGCU – as they doubled up the Zips in shots in the two overtime sessions, 6-3, and had a few point-blank opportunities stopped by Fenlason. The best effort came with just 10 seconds remaining when sophomore Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./El Dorado HS/Westminster) was one-on-one with Fenlason, but the charging keeper was able to dive to his right as Madrid fired his shot low to the left and made the final of his eight stops on the evening.
“It’s a shame we didn’t win; I thought we deserved the game,” said head coach Bob Butehorn. “I think that’s one we let go. I respect Akron and like the way they play, but I feel this was a game we should have won. In terms of our play, I think we do a very good job at figuring things out throughout the game, and we have the ability to bring a lot of guys off the bench which will ultimately help us in the long run.”
The game was played in the middle third of the pitch for most of the first 25 minutes with neither team having quality scoring chances. However, Akron got its first in the 27th minute and made the most of it as Saad Abdul-Salaam slid a pass diagonally to Adam Najem, who finished over the head of FGCU goalkeeper Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS) – the first goal of the year the redshirt junior has allowed in what is now 310 minutes of action.
The Eagles had several chances throughout the rest of the half, but no serious looks as the Zips’ defense thwarted most of their opportunities and crosses. However, that changed in the second half as FGCU pinned Akron in its own end most of the stanza, peppering Fenlason and earning three corners compared with none for the Zips.
The game was physical throughout, with Akron being called for 18 fouls and FGCU 17. A total of 10 yellow cards were also issued: five to each side (including two on the Akron bench). Combined with its 2-0 win over USF last Friday and 0-0 tie versus Portland Thursday, FGCU has now started a season unbeaten through the first three games for the first time in program history.
The previous FGCU attendance record was 1,556 against No. 13 USF during the 2011 season. Saturday’s attendance is just the sixth time in program history FGCU has played in front of at least 1,000 fans and only the second occasion that total has been greater than 1,500.
A tradition-rich program, Akron – which lost 2-1 in double-overtime Thursday at USF – has madenine straight NCAA Tournament appearances and was the national runner-up in 2009, in addition to the aforementioned accolades. The Zips started this year ranked No. 13 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire Preseason Poll and entered Saturday night’s contest receiving 38 votes in the poll, 10 behind FGCU as the Eagles are the first team outside the Top 25.
FGCU now heads to the West Coast for a pair of matchups next weekend in California. The Green and Blue will face the University of San Francisco on Friday, Sept. 12, at 10 p.m. Eastern and Saint Mary’s College on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m. Eastern.
San Francisco, which is 2-1 on the year following a 2-1 victory over Cal State Fullerton Friday night, has made 31 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances, claiming four national championships in the process – the fourth most in NCAA history. Saint Mary’s, which plays in the West Coast Conference – the same league which Portland and San Francisco play in – is 0-2 on the season entering a match at No. 4 Washington Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern on the Pac-12 Network. The Gaels lost 1-0 in double-overtime at Colgate and then 3-0 at Syracuse last weekend as they made the trek across the country to Central New York.
GAME NOTES: This is the first time FGCU has started a season with three straight home games … previously, the Eagles had never even opened a year with two consecutive home matches … this was the second meeting between FGCU and Akron, with the Zips winning the first in 2012, 4-0 … the last time FGCU tied consecutive games was the second and third games of the 2011 season (1-1 at Portland and 1-1 at Washington).
For 2014 men’s soccer ticket information, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer and Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer.