AKRON, Ohio – The No. 10 University of Akron men's soccer team kicked off the season in grand fashion with a 4-0 shutout victory over Florida Gulf Coast in front of 4,440 fans Friday night at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first half, the Zips (1-0-0) scored three goals after the break to put the game away in front of the fourth-largest crowd in school history.
Sophomore Eric Stevenson led the way with a goal and an assist as UA took command of the game early and never let up. For the match, the Zips out-shot the Eagles, 14-6, including an 11-0 advantage on frame.
Also finding the net for the Zips, who improved to 46-1-5 in its last 52 matches at home, were Thomas Schmitt (57'), Aodhan Quinn (63') and Scott Caldwell (74').
After a relatively slow start by both teams, Akron quickly found its stride and nearly took the lead 10 minutes in when Bryan Gallego was left with an open net following a scramble in front of the goal. Unfortunately for the Zips, however, an Eagles defender swooped in to clear Gallego's close-ranged blast.
Akron was not deterred and its persistence paid off when a through ball from Wil Trapp sprung Stevenson, who launched a low liner from 20 yards that found the left corner of the net in the 20th minute.
UA nearly made it 2-0 in the 30th minute as another frantic moment in front of the net resulted in two more point-blank shots. But Chad Barson's attempt was stopped by FGCU goalkeeper Nathan Ingham, who finished with four saves, and Trapp's follow-up deflected off a defender's back and out of play.
The all-important second goal came early in the second half for Akron. Stevenson was the catalyst at the 56:30 mark as the junior from Columbus, Ohio, knifed his way through a couple of defenders and left the ball for Schmitt.
Schmitt, who had the ball on the right flank, dribbled the ball through the legs of his Eagles' counterpart and shot across the goal into the left corner to give UA some breathing room.
Two more combination plays resulted in the final two goals of the evening. The first came at the 62:45 mark when Quinn finished off a DeAndre Yedlin cross with a header from close range.
Not to be outdone, Caldwell hooked up with SMU transfer Robbie Derschang at the 73:13 mark on a particularly beautiful goal. After beating his man down the left sideline, Derschang whipped the ball into the box where Caldwell finished with a one-timer.
In addition to his assist, Trapp led a balanced Akron attack with three shots, including one on frame. Ten Zips recorded at least one shot and five reserves saw action in the season-opening victory.
The Zips will next head to Omaha, Neb., next weekend for the Ameritas Classic where they will face preseason No. 3 Creighton on Fri., Aug. 31, and Southern Illinois Edwardsville (SIUE) on Sunday, Sept. 2.
Zips Notebook: The Zips improved to 6-1 in season openers and 97-2-4 when they score first under seventh-year head coach Caleb Porter ... Friday's match represented the first ever meeting between UA and FGCU.