DENVER, Colo. - The 13th-rated University of Akron men's soccer team's attempt at ending No. 3 Denver's (2-0-0) 36-match regular season unbeaten streak went unrewarded as a successful penalty kick by Graham Smith in the 45th minute (44:39) propelled the Pioneers to a 1-0 victory over the Zips (0-2-0) on Monday, Aug. 28.
"That was a tough defeat," Akron head coach Jared Embick commented. "We played well all game, especially second half. Denver was tough and organized and we just couldn't find the breakthrough. We need to continue to improve in final third and to bring the effort again on Friday. After playing two top-20 teams on the road, we have to get ready for a top-10 team at home and we need our fans to get behind this team."
The two sides battled through a defensive first half with the Zips outshooting the Pioneers, 4-3.
The outcome of the affair ultimately came down to a play in the final minute of the opening half as junior goalkeeper Ben Lundt (Berlin, Germany) was whistled for a foul in the box in the 45th minute (44:39) that resulted in a penalty kick for Denver. Graham Smith stepped to the line and capitalized on the scoring opportunity with his first goal of the season to give the Pioneers a 1-0 advantage entering the intermission.
The penalty shot for Denver marked the lone shot on goal for either team in the initial stanza. Three of Akron's four shots in the opening 45 minutes were blocked.
The Zips nearly leveled the match at one in the 59th minute (58:16) when senior Manuel Cordeiro (Porto, Portugal) delivered Akron's first shot on goal, a laser that was saved by goalkeeper Nick Gardner.
Cordeiro and senior Stuart Holthusen (Auckland, New Zealand) each registered a pair of shots in the final period, while sophomore Marcel Zajac (Mississauga, Ontario) and senior Nate Shultz (Mayfield, Ohio) recorded shots at the 65:48 (blocked) and 88:42 (wide), respectively.
The Zips finished the match outshooting the Pioneers, 10-5, including 6-2 in the second half. Akron was able to push the ball into Denver's final third as the Zips owned a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks, but was unable to breakthrough and convert those opportunities into goals.
Holthusen directed Akron with a game-high three shots, while Cordeiro add two shots for the Zips. Smith and Ryan Barlow garnered two shots each for the Pioneers.
Gardner pulled in the lone save in the affair en route to collecting the shutout for the Pioneers.
Akron opens its home campaign welcoming No. 11 Washington to FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field for a 7 p.m. tilt on Friday, Sept. 1. The contest will be televised by ESPN3.