Oct. 9, 2010
Box Score in PDF Format
DeKALB - In front of a facility record 1,276 fans, the Northern Illinois men's soccer team controlled the game, but ultimately lost 1-0 to No. 1 Akron, Saturday at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex.
There was little doubt the games was played on NIU's terms. Toward the end of a bruising match, the Zips (9-0-1 , 3-0-0 Mid-American Conference) were uncharacteristically launching balls over the top of the defense, rather than play with the quick passes through the middle that have become their trademark.
"It was going to be a battle from the day it was scheduled a year ago,' NIU head coach Eric Luzzi said.
Akron head coach Caleb Porter agreed with Luzzi, noting that Northern Illinois (5-4-2, 0-2-0 MAC) is the premier team in the nation for playing hard-working, physical soccer.
"They have a lot of spirit and a lot of fight," Porter said. "I'm not sure there's a college soccer team in the country that is more effective playing the way they play, and that's a credit to them."
The match's only goal came in the 16th minute off the foot of Darren Mattocks, the Zips' leading goal-scorer. Akron launched free kick from 45 yards out into the box, where NIU headed the ball high into the air twice, but could not clear it from the box. Mattocks volleyed the ball on its second trip down into the net for the game-winner.
Though Akron scored the match's lone goal, NIU tallied twice as many shots on goal as the Zips, 8-4.
"Outside of that one play, it was about as even a game you're going to find against the No. 1 team in the country," Luzzi said.
Luzzi credited the record crowd, almost all of which stayed until the final buzzer despite it being 87 degrees at kick-off, for his team's performance.
"Absolutely fantastic," he said of the crowd. "When the heat started to take over, I think our atmosphere, our environment and the fans today helped give our guys a little something to keep the energy higher for a longer period of time."
The Huskies had multiple quality chances in the first half, most of which came just minutes after Akron's goal. In the 20th, Finn Jor had a strike from just outside the box blocked by an Akron defender. Minutes later, Jor took a shot from the left interior of the area that Juan Hoyos intercepted and backheeled toward the net. Akron keeper David Meves had to awkwardly dive to make the save, but narrowly kept the chance from crossing the line.
Jus two minute later, NIU had its best opportunity of the half. Freshman Mino Kayser placed a header with pace on target and away from Meves, but an Akron defender made his way over just in time to head the ball away. Akron's only shot on target was its goal, while NIU tallied three first half shots on goal.
NIU continued to generate quality chances in the second half against a defense that has only given up two goals all season.
"In the second half, I thought we were quite good," Luzzi said. "It's not very often someone plays (Akron) and the shots on goal (margin) is eight to four, not in their favor."
Two chances stood out in the second half. In the 65th minute, Tim King put a header on goal, and 13 minutes later Hooman Shams put a bicycle kick on target. Both opportunities were saved by Akron's back-up goalkeeper Anthony Ponikvar, who subbed in for David Meves in the 50th minute after Meves collided with King in the six-yard box.
Kayser led NIU with two shots on goal. Brad Horton, Juan Hoyos, and Gael Rivera also placed shots on target. The onslaught forced Akron goalkeepers to make eight saves. It was only the second time this year that an opponent had more shots on goal than the Zips. Then-No. 4 North Carolina tallied six to Akron's five in a season-opening match that the Zips won 3-0. It was only the second time the Zips had been held to just one goal.
The Huskies continue the season Wednesday, October 13 at Northwestern, and return to MAC play at Florida Atlantic the following Saturday.