Akron defeats UB men’s soccer 2-1
Early first half goal not enough as Bulls drop MAC opener
With five seconds left in Friday’s game, head coach Stu Riddle kicked the ball clear into the UB Stadium stands.
Based on the previous 89 minutes and 55 seconds, you couldn’t blame him. The men’s soccer team had played tough with the No. 8 team in the nation with stellar defensive play and an early goal, but it was still on its way to a defeat and an 0-1 to start to Mid-American Conference play.
“We knew Akron was one of the top teams in the country and we knew they were going to have a lion’s share of the possessions,” Riddle said. “We knew it was going to take a Herculean effort defensively to stay in the game.”
Akron (9-2-1, 1-0 MAC) defeated the Bulls (5-5-3, 0-1 MAC) 2-1 Friday night in what was both teams’ MAC opener.
The Bulls got off to a fast start, thanks to junior midfielder Russell Cicerone. Less than three minutes into the game, Cicerone found the back of the net on a penalty kick to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead. The goal was Cicerone’s ninth of the season and fifth consecutive game with at least a point.
“It’s always good to get on the board,” Cicerone said. “Getting a goal to start the game was great. It doesn’t matter much now because of the end result, but it was certainly big to come out against one of the top teams in the nation, get a goal and allow our team to have the lead to start.”
Cicerone’s goal allowed the Bulls to play loose on the defensive end, as Akron couldn’t get in front of the goal and often settled for shots from the side. The Zips outshot Buffalo 26-6 on the night, but just nine of those 26 shots were shots on goal.
With six minutes left in the first half, the Bulls were poised to enter halftime with a lead over one of the best teams in the nation.
But it was all for naught.
With less than two minutes in the first half, the Zips got on the board with a goal off a throw in from the left side. The ball went between four Bulls defenders and Akron’s Brad Ruhaak, snuck past the defenders to get a clear shot to the left of Buffalo sophomore goalkeeper Joseph Kuta.
“What was disappointing for us was that we had four players up and an [Akron] player got up and behind us,” Riddle said. “I didn’t get to see it back, but Joseph [Kuta] said he got hit and got bumped down and ended up dropping it down.”
In the second half, the game began to get more chippy. The teams combined for 30 penalties and four yellow cards on the night.
In the midst of the combative matchup, Akron picked up a free penalty kick off a dubious foul call. Akron’s Victor Souto knocked in the penalty kick at the 83:05 mark of the game, giving the Zips the 2-1 lead that they would hold onto to for the remaining seven minutes of the game.
“I didn’t see a great deal, there were a ton of people in front of the coaches,” Riddle said, “But according to our players and their reactions, there really wasn’t anything there. All we can do it watch it again, avoid mistakes and get back out there next week.”
Cicerone was proud of the team after the loss and said the defensive performance was something special.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” Cicerone said. “We have to look back at the film on that last play, but it looked pretty soft. We made plays and knowing that they were going to control the game, we played great defensively and it keep us in the game.”
The Bulls remain home to face West Virginia (5-6, 1-0 MAC) on Friday, Oct. 16 at UB Stadium. The match is set for 7 p.m.