Last night at Westcott Field, NCAA champions Akron came to town for an NCAA Tournament Second Round showdown against SMU. The Zips would take a 3-0 lead through a double from star Jamaican forward Darren Mattocks and withstand a furious Mustangs comeback to grab a wild 3-2 win.
On a wet, chilly night, Akron was the dominant team in the first half with Mattocks and senior Luke Holmes the main attacking threats for the Zips. Mattocks speed and touch on the ball gave the SMU defense fits in the first half and he would give his Akron side the lead midway through the first half. Seattle Sounders academy product DeAndre Yedlin got free down the right side and sent in a deep cross over the head of goalkeeper Jaime Ibarra that fell to the head of a diving Mattocks who scored easily.
From there, SMU would push forward enjoying the run of play through the end of the first half with sophomore midfielder Zach Barnes coming closest, flicking a Robbie Dershang cross over the bar from close range. SMU would bring on their star sophomore forward Juan Castillo midway through the first half as well which opened up some room for Arthur Ivo and the Mustang attack.
In the second half, it was more of the same from Akron who withstood some early pressure and hit SMU for a second goal midway through the half. Holmes lined up a free kick from the right side of the box about 25 yards out skipping the ball off the wet surface, past two defenders and under a diving Ibarra.
About ten minutes later, Mattocks would grab a second goal muscling off SMU defender Aaron Simmons on a 1v1, cutting the ball back and curling it around Ibarra to give the Zips a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead. SMU, however, would not go down quietly.
Tyler Engel grabbed a goal in the 83rd minute to wake up the stunned Mustang crowd before he would get taken down 30 seconds later by Chad Barson to earn the Mustangs a penalty converted by Ivo taking the scoreline to 3-2 and setting up a wild finish.
Both sides would have great chances in the last 7 minutes, including a wild scramble in front of the Akron goal with just seconds left to play. The Zips would clear the ball leaving the Ponies with a corner they couldn't get off as time expired.
Akron advances to play Charlotte in the NCAA Tournament Third Round while the Mustangs season ends at home after the wild 3-2 loss.
Darren Mattocks is the real deal I've heard the hype surround Mattocks for weeks now and the Jamaican certainly delivered. He really reminds you of Jeff Cunningham out there which was noted in this recap of the game as well. Top level speed, great composure on the ball and cool finishing ability. My boy Travis Clark of MLSSoccer says he's a lock top 5 draft pick if he decides to take a certain Generation Adidas contract and I would think even top 3 is a likely draft destination for him.
Luke Holmes a very interesting player The other guy who caught my eye for Akron was English left winger Luke Holmes. Holmes, a senior from Oldham, England who spent time in the Manchester City youth system, was a dominant force on the left wing for Akron all night and he really looks like a Schellas Hyndman type winger. Holmes got forward multiple times beating his defender on the dribble but could always be counted to track back on defense as well. Travis Clark thinks his nationality status could hurt his draft stock, and that very well could be true, but he's a guy I wouldn't mind Dallas taking a late 2nd round flyer on.
From the SMU standpoint The Mustangs played a very good game and showed tons of heart not going down quietly after getting three goals scored on them. Ivo had a tough time operating against an Akron defense that was clearly keying on him all night and with their only forward, Juan Castillo, at 60% health the difference in the game was the forwards for each team. Robbie Dershang had a great night on the left wing and Tyler Engel made some huge plays late in the game.
It's a disappointing end to the SMU season, but the Mustangs have the Conference USA Championship to be proud of. Now we watch Arthur Ivo and if he decides to sign with MLS.
SMU Men's Soccer - Akron NCAA Postagame (Akron 3, SMU 2) (via SMUMustangsAthletics)