The University of Akron men’s soccer team found another scoring threat Saturday night to keep opponents on edge.
Junior Reinaldo Brenes continued his maturation process as a collegiate forward by scoring three goals to lead No. 7-ranked UA to a 4-0 victory over visiting Buffalo in a Mid-American Conference match before a crowd of 2,536 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
To put Brenes’ hat trick in perspective, he had one goal in 32 previous collegiate matches at UA playing as a midfielder and forward.
“It is good to contribute to the team finally,” Brenes said. “I work during the week at finishing and I wanted to do it in a game. It has been two tough years for me in training, and finally it is coming around.”
The Zips (6-1-2, 2-0-0) picked the Bulls (2-8-1, 0-1-0) apart for a majority of the evening with precise passing and spacing.
UA’s speed led to an advantage in shots (28-2), shots on goal (12-0) and corner kicks (12-0).
“What I am most pleased with tonight is our progress,” UA coach Caleb Porter said. “We had two weeks and two games to get better.”
Porter said the team made strides in training and that carried over to Saturday’s match.
“A lot of things we worked on translated into the game individually and collectively,” Porter said. “Reinaldo is a great example of that.”
Brenes gave the Zips a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute when he headed the ball into the net from seven yards out off a corner kick by junior midfielder Aodhan Quinn.
The Zips lead grew to 2-0 in the 24th minute on a nifty three-player combination. Senior midfielder Scott Caldwell passed the ball to his right to sophomore DeAndre Yedlin, who sprinted forward from his defender position to kick the ball to his left where Brenes was standing in the middle of the pitch to kick the ball into the net.
Brenes made it 3-0 with a goal in the 38th minute from 13 yards out following a pass from junior forward Eric Stevenson.
“Frankly we hadn’t had anybody step up and perform like we wanted,” Porter said. “We decided to give Reinaldo a try in the St. John’s game and we felt good with it. He helps with our chemistry.
“Reinaldo is finally healthy. He struggled with chronic muscle pulls and injuries.”
Caldwell concluded the scoring with a goal off a penalty kick in the 88th minute. Yedlin drew a foul in the box to set up Caldwell’s goal, his team-high sixth of the season.
UA senior goalkeeper David Meves never faced a shot on goal and as a result had zero saves. Yedlin, sophomore Bryan Gallego, senior Chad Barson and freshman Phil Fives comprised the starting defensive unit in front of Meves.
“I thought we created a lot of chances with 28 shots,” Porter said. “Our defending was impressive. We have been working harder on that both individually and collectively. We needed to ramp that up. I think we dominated defensively tonight.”
Quinn, Caldwell and sophomore Wil Trapp were solid at midfield maintaining possession for the Zips. Brenes, Stevenson and freshman Dillon Serna gave the Bulls fits up top as forwards.
“We have put in a lot of work and it is good to see the guys getting better,” Brenes said.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.