David Egbo is great.
This isn’t a news flash, but what Egbo did Thursdaywasn’t your typical NCAA Division I Tournament showing for the University of Akron men’s soccer team.
Then again, Thursday wasn’t your mid-November “autumn” day.
Freezing rain gave way to quarter-sized snow at FirstEnergy Stadium and a game as strange as the weather played out.
Akron came out a 3-1 winner in a contest that could have been narrated by Rod Serling.
The game-winner came with 6:47 remaining when Egbo flicked a header to the right corner on a cross from Morgan Hackworth.
It was Egbo’s second goal of the contest and 12th of the season.
“[He] allows me to fall asleep at night,” Zips coach Jared Embick said of Egbo. “These guys are tremendous players and in these games, they rise to the occasion.”
Marcel Zajac added a penalty kick with 2:45 remaining. He has scored a point in seven of Akron’s last eight games.
Before all that, the beautiful game came with some strange accoutrements.
Six men with leaf blowers shooed snow out of the penalty area before the game and at intermission.
An unfortunate delay with 8:46 remaining in the first half caused a 25-minute stoppage and through balls that usually skip across Cub Cadet Field, got caught up in the white stuff.
Although the Zips (11-6-2) had the best chance in the first half after Garret Potter saved a point-blank shot by Diogo Pacheco, the half was highlighted by a scary incident in which Rider defender Arthur Herpreck hit Broncs keeper Pablo Gatinois in the shoulder, causing the sophomore’s head to snap back and the net minder to helicopter uncontrollably.
Gatinois lay motionless and had to be carted off the field, causing the almost half-hour delay, although the keeper had movement when he left.
“It wasn’t a normal game,” Zips defender Abdi Mohamed said. “Obviously, going into it with the weather, we knew it was going to be a tough one, but the other team is also playing on the same field.
“With the injury, you hope that the other player is doing OK. We just had to go in, get together, talk amongst ourselves and get back into it.”
Through it all, Akron kept its collective head and finally broke through 5:16 into the second half thanks to Egbo.
The forward deked the defense at the top of the box before one-touching it to the left and blasting a shot past a helpless Potter.
The lead held up for much of the second half, but the Broncs (10-10-1) never gave up and found the equalizer when Emmanuel Kouma crossed one in the box that Pablo DeCastro got a head on, flicking it past Ben Lundt.
The win brings a rematch of sorts at 2 p.m. Sunday at No. 16 Syracuse (7-6-4).
The two met Oct. 1 with the Orange winning 3-1. Both teams are in much different places now, however, as unseeded Akron has won five in a row and hasn’t lost in over a month (Oct. 13, 2-1 vs. West Virginia).
On the flip side, Syracuse is winless in its last four matches at 0-2-2 and hasn’t won since Oct. 16 (St. Bonaventure, 7-0).
“We don’t need to change anything,” Egbo said. “We just have to come out and play like we did the second half. If we play Akron soccer, everyone knows we can play anybody, anywhere, anytime and beat them.”