PHILADELPHIA — The Akron Zips lost to two-time defending champion Stanford, 2-0, Friday evening in the opening match of the 2017 NCAA Men’s College Cup Championships.
The semifinal game was played at Talen Energy Stadium along the Delaware River with wind chills that felt below 20 degrees. But it seemed to affect the Zips (18-4-2), much more than Stanford (18-2-2).
Stanford will go for a three-peat against Indiana at 1 p.m. Sunday for the national crown. Indiana defeated North Carolina in Friday’s second semifinal, 1-0.
This was No. 5-seed Akron’s second trip to the four-team championship in three seasons and both times the Zips drew No. 9 Stanford. The Cardinal were aggressive from the outset, attacking offensively and smothering defensively.
“They were the better team,” Akron coach Jared Embick said. “They punched us in the mouth early and we didn’t respond until the second half.”
Akron’s Sam Gainford echoed his coach.
“I don’t know what it was,” he said. “We couldn’t get our game going.”
Less than two minutes into the match Stanford had a clear shot at the Zips goal, but Akron goalie Ben Lundt got the save. Still, it was the signal for a long half to come for Akron. The Zips had two scoring opportunities themselves but missed them wide.
Stanford had a seven-minute stretch where the Cardinal stayed almost exclusively on Akron’s end of the field, getting five opportunities to put the ball into the net.
Finally, with 19:30 on the clock, Stanford’s Foster Langdorf took a diving header just inside the box after a crossing pass from Corey Baird. Lindt dove for the block but the ball slipped into the back corner of the net for a 1-0 Stanford lead.
With the lead, Stanford’s defense tightened even more as the Zips struggled to get the ball past midfield, much less get a good shot and trailed at the half, 1-0.
The numbers leaned heavily toward Stanford at the half with nine shots to two for Akron and four corner kicks to none for the Zips. Lundt’s three saves kept the Zips hopes alive going into the second half.
Akron’s best second half chance at scoring came with 29:38 on the clock. Both David Egbo and Niko De Veira had bang-bang shots inside the box that were both blocked by a Stanford defense that kept getting tighter and tighter as the match went on.
“If we could have scored there we could have pushed on for the winner,” Akron’s Stuart Holthusen said. “That was our best chance of the match.”
85′ | @SamWerner10 With A Dagger In Akron’s Hopes Of Coming Back, 2-0 Stanford! Stanford Looking Very Convincing In Their Route To A 3rd Straight National Championship!#CollegeCup pic.twitter.com/KtB133ixsh
— DMV Soccer (@DMVsoccer96) December 9, 2017
Congratulations to our wonderful University of Akron Zips men’s soccer team on an exceptional season. Valiant effort. Go Zips! pic.twitter.com/8N7RJX6CUc
— Matthew Wilson (@profmattwilson) December 9, 2017