The University of Akron men's soccer team concluded it's own tournament Sunday afternoon with a decisive performance.
Sophomores Teal Bunbury and Kofi Sarkodie led the No. 1 Zips to a 4-0 victory over Saint Louis in front of 1,150 fans at Lee Jackson Field. The victory over Saint Louis (3-3-0), coupled with a 1-0 win over No. 8 Indiana (3-2-2) on Friday night, allowed the Zips (6-0-0) to win the UA Tournament.
“It feels amazing,” said Bunbury, who scored two goals in the second half Sunday. “That was our goal from the beginning, to start the season off right.”
UA, ranked No. 1 in the country according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA/adidas), Soccer America, Top Drawer Soccer and the Soccer Times, led 1-0 at halftime and then put Saint Louis away with three goals in the final 45 minutes.
“I thought we played well,” UA coach Caleb Porter said. “I was a little concerned only from the standpoint that often times after a big win there is a letdown ... but we knew were going to have be at our best again because Saint Louis is a good team. That is sometimes hard, to bring it again when you have such an emotional game like we had on Friday.”
The Zips controlled the ball for a majority of the game and held an advantage in shots (21-3), shots on goal (12-1) and corner kicks (9-3).
“I thought we really came out from the start and dictated the game, which is what we wanted to do,” Porter said. “We knew if we could get on the ball and open them up, that on a hot day it's difficult to have to defend and chase the ball.”
Sophomore Darlington Nagbe scored the Zips first goal Sunday from nine yards away with 29:18 remaining in the first half. Sarkodie assisted on the goal with a pass up the field from about 50 yards away to Nagbe, who then used his right foot to kick the ball into the bottom right portion of the net past Billikens freshman goalkeeper Mark Pais.
“That was a good ball by Kofi, a great run by Darlington and a good finish,” Porter said.
Bunbury then scored goals with 36:58 and 19:31 left in the second half. Sarkodie assisted on Bunbury's first goal with a crossing pass that Bunbury booted into the net from 16 yards away. Bunbury's second tally came unassisted from 15 yards away after a Pais save.
“The gameplan is to try to dominate,” Bunbury said. “Keeping possession of the ball, being dominate in the attack and having a killer instinct, that is in the back of our minds.”
Freshman Yoram Mwila scored UA's final goal with 13:40 to go in the second half with a kick from 12 yards away in the bottom left of the net. Redshirt sophomore Michael Nanchoff assisted on Mwila's goal with a crossing pass from the left.
“We are a possession oriented team and we like to keep possession of the ball in the opponents half,” Sarkodie said. “This game is a perfect example of that.”
Zips freshman goalkeeper David Meves recorded his fifth shutout of the season with the assistance of starting defenders Sarkodie, junior Chris Korb and freshmen Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson.
Bunbury, Sarkodie, Nagbe, and Zips senior Ben Zemanski were each named to the All-Tournament Team. Nanchoff was named the tournament's Offensive MVP and Valentin received Defensive MVP honors. UA junior Blair Gavin won the tournament's Sportsmanship Award.
“It was a great weekend,” Porter said. “We had two shutouts and scored five goals.”
Additional postgame quotes:
“I am pleased with the diversity in the attack. We are getting goals from a lot of different spots, which makes us unpredictable to deal with. I think it's also a sign of the chemistry, the unity and the cohesiveness of this group. We defend as a team, we attack as a team and out leadership was tremendous today, especially.”
“I thought today we put the game away early. It makes me a little more comfortable on the bench.”
“I think this is just the tip of iceberg for this team, which is scary. We can be better in every aspect.”
“Definitely I am really pleased. We are not giving many chances and our backline is solid.”
“Our coach is always striving for us to get the first goal and after that to open up the floodgates. We felt at halftime that we would come out and put them away.”
“We need to improve on all aspects.”
“Each day in practice, we try to be the best we can. Every practice is intense.”
“The main thing I think we have to work on is getting goals off of re-starts and corner kicks.”
“I hit the ball (ahead) to Darlington or Teal in the preseason and a couple of times in games. It is a ball that I am always looking for.”
“To be honest we are firing, we are moving really well and we are getting goals from everyone.”
Additional postgame notes:
Porter played 20 different Zips players on Sunday.
The starting lineup consisted of: Meves at goalkeeper; Valentin, Barson, Sarkodie and Korb as defenders; Gavin, Nanchoff, Zemanski and junior Anthony Ampaipitakwong as midfielders and Nagbe and Bunbury at forward.
The reserves who played were: freshmen Mwila, Ben Speas, Scott Caldwell and Thomas Schmitt, sophomore Matt Dagilis, junior Enrique Paez and seniors C.J. Kaufman, Stefan Ostergren and Ivan Sandoval.
Saint Louis has qualified for the past three NCAA Tournaments. SLU posted a 12-5-5 record last season and were ranked the entire season between No. 5 and No. 23. The Billikens have won an NCAA-record 10 national championships and have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 45 times. The national titles were won between 1959 and 1973.