The Northern Illinois University men’s soccer team played even with 18th-ranked Akron for 75 minutes before falling, 2-1, on a late goal on Saturday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Junior Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) scored his team-leading sixth goal of the year for the Huskies.
“I thought we had a good game plan, the guys stuck to it well, we severely limited their quality chances and created a number of good ones for ourselves,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi.
“Credit to them, in other games they have created a lot more than they did tonight and struggled to finish, but tonight they hit the post and had the two goals, outside of that they didn’t have much else in terms of quality chances.”
Akron (11-3-1, 4-1 MAC) struck first in the 12th minute as Adam Najem found the back of the net to give the Zips an early lead. Saad Abdul-Salaam played a cross in from the left that skipped through to Najem who buried a shot from about 12 yards to give the Zips a 1-0 lead.
NIU (4-10-0, 0-3 MAC) responded just three minutes later as Kannah got his third goal in the last two games. Kannah worked his way down the left side, finding space behind the Akron backline before slotting a shot past Akron goalkeeper Fernando Pina to level the match, 1-1.
The Zips came close to going back in front in the 18th minute as Matt Foldesy rang a shot off the post.
The Huskies had a chance to get a second goal in the opening 45 minutes off the foot of Kannah in the 23rd minute. Working down the right side, Kannah got himself a yard of space around an Akron defender and fired a dangerous shot that hit the side-netting, but the game remained tied, 1-1, at the halftime interval.
Kannah had the first good chance of the second half in the 59th minute. After dispossessing an Akron defender, the Plymouth, Minn., native fired a shot from 30 yards that had Pina beat but went just wide of the post.
“Isaac was a handful tonight,” Luzzi said. “I’m happy for him, that he is at the point where he is realizing his responsibility to be a threat all the time. We saw today how much they had to respect him and how much of a threat he was throughout the game.”
In the 76th minute, Akron regained the lead on a goal by Robbie Derschang. The Zips worked the ball around the top of the box until Najem laid it off to Derschang who tucked a shot just inside the far post to give the Zips a 2-1 lead.
Derschang had another good chance in the 84th minute, finding space near the penalty spot before turning and sending a low shot toward redshirt sophomore Andrew Glaeser (Walla Walla, Wash./Walla Walla/Oregon State) that he tipped around the post for a corner.
Glaeser finished the match with three saves.
NIU will return to action Wednesday, Oct. 30, when the Huskies return to the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex to host Wisconsin-Milwaukee at 7 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.