USF hosted national powerhouse #24 Akron in their regular season opener in men's soccer last night. It took two over time periods, but the Bulls walked away with a well-deserved 2-1 victory.
The Bulls were handed a golden opportunity in just the second minute of the game with a penalty called against Akron for a handball in the box, but were unable to convert. The first goal in the game came in the 40th minute when Lucas Baldin struck the ball from distance and found the back of the net.
The game went largely back and forth after that. Although the Bulls got the majority of chances and shots (14-11), neither team looked particularly menacing going forward. USF would do well to get the ball into dangerous areas, but lacked the ability to do much with it once they got there. More than not, they either just lost possession without taking a shot, or directed a weak effort towards the net that ended in an easy save.
Akron's goal came in the 72nd minute off a penalty for a handball. Other than that mistake, the Bulls were largely solid defensively. Spasoj Stefanovic did make a couple really key saves for USF though, including a diving stop in over time.
"Spasoje is a veteran when it comes to being in big matches and he knows he's got to come up with one or two big saves a game and I think he did that," said head coach George Kiefer.
Baldin stepped up again for the Bulls in the second over time period, scoring his second goal of the game with only 30 seconds left on the clock. The chance came off a bad turnover from Akron in their own defensive third and Baldin skillfully capitalized, sealing the win for USF.
"The guys were just going in hard pressing Akron, Akron is a great team, and I was just lucky enough to find one because of our pressure," Baldin said. "The movements the guys did just left me all alone in there and I took a shot."
The Zips went into the game ranked #24 nationally and are a program that has produced loads of professionals that any USA or MLS fan would recognize including: US Men's National Team standout DeAndre Yedlin (on loan at Seattle Sounders from Tottenham Hotspurs in the English Premier League), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Steve Zakuani (Portland Timbers), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), and Perry Kitchen (DC United) and on the coaching end- Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers). Needless to say, a victory over this power is something to hang your hat on.
"I definitely feel like we deserved the game with the amount of chances they created," Kiefer said. "I thought their keeper on a few opportunities really did well, so I was pleased. I told my guys regardless of the result the effort, the work rate, the bench coming in, that's the ingredients to win college soccer games."
The Bulls will look to build off this win in their next home game against Portland on Sunday at noon at Corbett Stadium. Watch the highlights from the Akron game here: