The University of Akron men’s soccer team is in on a roll.
Two days after putting together their first three-goal match of the season, the Zips scored four goals for the first time this season in a 4-1 route of Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship Sunday.
The timing is perfect for UA, which won its 10th MAC Tournament title since joining the league in 1993 and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the 28th time since the program started in 1955. UA (16-3-1) will find out today where it will be seeded.
“This was a tremendous performance and very professional of our team,” UA coach Jared Embick said after sophomore Clint Caso and senior Robbie Derschang doused him with a bucket of ice water.
“We are continuing to show that we are peaking at the right time. We wanted to leave no doubt who is the best team in the MAC and make a statement to the selection committee [today]. I think we did that and more.”
A crowd of 1,184 at FirstEnergy Stadium braved a windy and rainy afternoon to watch senior Zac Portillos score two goals to lead the Zips. Seniors Aodhan Quinn and Reinaldo Brenes both netted one goal for UA, which has scored 15 goals in its past six matches after scoring 15 goals in its opening 14 matches.
“Everyone is starting to get hungry now,” Portillos said. “At the beginning of the season we were maybe lackadaisical in front of the net. Now, we realize that if we get one and if we get two, that teams will start losing hope.”
The No. 1 seeded Zips, ranked eighth nationally, consistently generated offense against the No. 2 seed Broncos (9-9-1).UA finished the match with an edge in shots (18-4), shots on goal (10-1) and corner kicks (4-3).
Quinn, who was named the MAC Player of the Year on Friday, missed a penalty kick in the fourth minute, but recovered to score a goal in the 12th minute from around 15-yards out with an assist going to Brenes.
Portillos created a chance in the 13th minute with some dribbling and fired a shot for a goal from around 10 yards out.
Brenes scored a goal in the 50th minute to make it 3-0 off a rebound. Portillos took the initial shot of the possession, which Broncos sophomore goalkeeper Chase Rau batted away. Brenes gained control of the ball and popped it into the net.
The Zips’ fourth goal was similar. Senior Eric Stevenson fired a shot that Rau batted away, but Portillos was nearby to coral the rebound and score in the 56th minute.
“We should be a seeded team, get a bye and being playing here on Sunday,” Embick said. “We will see what type of seed we get. After that, we will see what the bracket brings, but I don’t think any team is going to want to see our name against them, not with the way we are playing now. If we continue this, there is no doubt that we can win the thing.”
WMU concluded the scoring in the 81st minute with a goal from senior Brian Heimerdinger off an assist from freshman Edu Jimenez.
UA placed four players on the All-MAC Tournament team: Stevenson, Quinn, Portillos and freshman Adam Najem. . . Zips red-shirt sophomore goalkeeper Jake Fenlason made his second collegiate start. Freshmen Victor Souto and Louis Cross, junior Saad Abdul-Salaam and sophomore Andrew Souders also contributed in starting roles Sunday. . . . UA junior defender Bryan Gallego did not play due to a sore larynx. Embick said he is probable for the NCAA Tournament. . . . UA has a six-match winning streak and is unbeaten in its past 10 outings. . . . Zips players accidentally spilled Muscle Milk, an exercise drink, on the trophy locker room. Embick joked: “The trophy needed a little protein.”