The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team dropped a 2-0 decision to third-ranked Akron on Saturday afternoon at the NIU Soccer Complex.
The Huskies created a number of excellent chances but were unable to find the back of the net as Akron collected its seventh-straight shutout.
“We didn’t win the game and at the end of the day that is what matters,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi.
“So we are disappointed that for all of the chances we created we weren’t able to win the game. I thought our guys had an absolute top-class performance, on both sides of the ball. Defensively, I thought guys left everything they had on the field. On the ball we had plenty of moments, especially in the second half. Even when we were a player down there were moments when we had the better of play.
“But, at the end of the day, we lost the game 2-0. They are obviously one of the best teams in the country but with the way our guys competed there are a lot of positives that can be taken out of this.”
In the slick, fast conditions on a wet surface, Akron (9-1-2, 4-0-0 MAC) jumped on the Huskies right away, opening the scoring in the second minute. Dillon Serna played a short cross from the right side in front of goal to Phil Fives who headed home the opening goal.
The Zips continued to pressure the Huskies, earning six corners in the opening 20 minutes of the contest while also hitting the crossbar in the fifth minute. NIU senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) also had a pair of saves early on as Akron piled on the pressure.
Godsey finished the match with four saves.
Northern Illinois (3-7-2, 2-1-0 MAC) got its first look at goal in the 21st minute as junior midfielder Karim Darbaki (Crystal, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary’s) forced an excellent save from Akron goalkeeper David Meves. Darbaki’s shot from just outside the area was headed for the top corner until Meves palmed it away for a corner.
From the ensuing corner kick, senior defender Rocco Taglia (Caledonia, Ill./Boylan) forced a fingertip save from Meves and the Zips took a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
After the break, the Huskies began the second 45 minutes on the front foot. Some good work down the wing by senior defender Pat Sloan (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy) and sophomore midfielder Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) helped NIU earn a corner in the 55th minute.
Junior midfielder Gael Rivera (Oslo, Norway/WANG Elite Sports Academy) took the corner and sophomore midfielder Jayson LeSeth (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) had a great chance inside the penalty area as his effort was beaten away by a quick reaction save from Meves.
Meves finished the match with five saves.
The Huskies had seemingly all of the momentum until Taglia was given his second yellow card in the 57th minute, reducing the Huskies to 10 men.
Akron claimed most of the possession for a long stretch following the card as the Huskies adjusted to playing down a man, but NIU swung the momentum back its way in the final 20 minutes
In the 73rd minute sophomore forward Paul Hogan (Downers Grove, Ill./North) played Kannah into a good position but his effort went harmlessly high.
Against the run of play, Akron doubled its advantage on a goal by Reinaldo Brenes in the 85th minute. The shorthanded Huskies were pushing for an equalizer and DeAndre Yedlin played a good through ball to Brenes who slotted home from the top of the box steal the win for the Zips.
Northern Illinois will return to action Wednesday, Oct. 17, as the Huskies travel to Valparaiso. Game time against the Crusaders is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.