AKRON, Ohio – For the second time in five days the Virginia Commonwealth University men's soccer team faced one of the top two programs in the nation. On Wednesday, the Rams concluded their preseason slate with a 3-1 loss against top-ranked and 2009 NCAA Runner-Up University of Akron.
Much like its game at Virginia on Friday, the Black & Gold
held strong but couldn't overcome a balanced Akron attack, which
registered 12 shots with seven on goal, and a dominating
defense. Just a season ago, the Zips posted 19 shutouts,
which was the second-highest single-season mark in NCAA history,
while also sporting a 0.27 goals against average and .760 shutout
percentage, good for third all-time.
"I was proud of the effort the guys made tonight in a hostile environment against the best team in the country, said first-year VCU Head Coach Dave Giffard. "For only being seven days into preseason, I thought we continued to make good strides toward the team that we will become. What I was most proud of is how we stuck with our brand; even when behind, we worked, pressed and continued to put the ball on the ground and kept working to play out of their pressure.
"As we continue to grow as a team on both sides of the ball, I think we'll be a very difficult team to deal with. It takes time to build in the dominant attacking and defending style and I think that we will become very dangerous going forward."
VCU took a 1-0 advantage less than 1:30 into the contest following an own goal by Akron. However, Rams goalkeeper Josh Pantazelos collected a pair of saves over the next 15 minutes until the Zips finally got on the board when Kofie Sarkodie found the near post from six yards out in the 30th minute.
The dangerous duo of Darlington Nagbe and Anthony Ampaipitakwong, who combined to score 18 goals for Akron last season, gave the Zips a 2-1 lead when Nagbe found the net from 12-yards out just five minutes later.
VCU's only threat of the opening period came on a shot by Jason Johnson (right) in the 16th minute but his strike sailed high of the net.
Akron came out firing in the second half and went on top 3-1 in the 48th minute when Sarkodie scored for the second time. Chris Korb's shot hit the crossbar and Sarkodie sent a header off the rebound from three yards away.
VCU managed just one shot the rest of the way, while Akron registered four with two on target over the final 42:00.
The match marked a homecoming of sorts for Giffard, who spent the previous four seasons as an assistant for the Zips. Meanwhile, Pantazelos and forward Yoram Mwila also squared off against familiar faces as the pair was part of Akron's run to the national title game last year prior to joining Giffard at VCU.
The Rams open the regular season on Sept. 4 against Florida Gulf Coast at 7:30 p.m., as part of the Richmond Marriott Classic presented by Adidas. The four-team tournament, which will be played at Sports Backers Stadium, also features Coastal Carolina and Old Dominion. The Rams conclude the tournament with a 2:30 p.m., match against the Chanticleers on Sept. 6.