The blockbuster match we were hoping for is coming to Westcott Field on Sunday night as Akron defeated Northwestern 3-1 last night in Ohio setting up a second round match between SMU and the NCAA Champion Zips. I encourage everyone to ditch MLS Cup and support your city by watching the Ponies in what will be the highest quality soccer game you'll see around here until next March. The forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 81, tickets are $6 and you don't have to drive up to Frisco. Get out there and support the Ponies in this huge match, you can always pop across the street to Trinity Hall for the second half of MLS Cup after the game is over anyways.
SMU heads into Sunday's match playing their best soccer of the season having won their last 4 games and 7 of their last 9. They're led up front by Brazilian senior Arthur Ivo, a player I've gushed about for the whole season, while they're anchored in the defense by senior Diogo De Almeida and FCD academy goalkeeper Jaime Ibarra. This is their 28th appearance in the NCAA tournament, having made the College Cup on two different occasions and they are the Conference USA Champions for the first time since 2006.
The Akron Zips have become somewhat of a storied college program in the past few years with 5 players from their 2010 National Championship team going in the first 8 picks of the 2011 MLS Superdraft. They're led by Caleb Porter, the hottest name in American soccer coaches at the moment, who was just recently named the US Olympic team coach for the 2012 cycle. Porter took over the Zips in 2006 and they have won the MAC Conference regular season championship every year he's been in charge.
Keep reading for a college soccer expert's take on Akron and much more
I've talked at length in the past about the talent SMU has, but Akron probably brings 5-7 legitimate MLS prospects on their roster, with Jamaican Darren Mattocks at the top of the list. I talked to JR Eskilson, the college soccer professor over at Goal.com, about Mattocks and the Akron team.
Darren Mattocks - the Jamaican striker is not long for the college game and this is very likely his last season with Akron. He is an incredibly gifted striker with a nose for the goal and would be one of the top picks if he decided to sign with MLS. Mattocks helped the team to a title last year and now leads the team in scoring this season (19 goals/20 games). If a defender gives him an inch, he will make it count.
Luke Holmes - the Brit has emerged as a cog for the Zips offense with 4 goals and 7 assists through 14 games. The limited appearances due to an eligibility issue from earlier in his career that was discovered when he transferred to Akron. He has made his time in the spotlight count though. He is incredibly dangerous on the right side with a dynamic change of pace and good ability to work in small spaces.
Aodhan Quinn is a bit streaky with his play as an attacking mid, but when he is on, he can take over the game.
There are others like Scott Caldwell (center mid), Bryan Gallego (center back/sometimes d-m), DeAndre Yedlin (right back), but they are all attached to MLS academies not named FC Dallas.
Overall, Akron has been wildly inconsistent this year. The Zips still subscribe to the 'Death by 1000 passes' style, but they have not been as dangerous in front of the net this season as in years past. They did play well against Northwestern, which was the type of team that had given this squad trouble earlier in the year. Caleb Porter's side is young, but they are damn talented with multiple players for the U.S. U-18 national team and a handful of future professionals. When Akron plays up to its capabilities, it is the best team in college soccer to watch.
MLSSoccer College writer Travis Clark had this to say about the Zips
Akron is a young team, but there is plenty of talent to overcome.
Best player on the team now is Darren Mattocks, their forward who is a top 10 pro prospect and likely to sign a GA deal (though you neverknow) after this year.
They still play the same style that has brought them success in recent times -- attractive, attacking, possession oriented game. However, biggest weakness has been finishing chances on a regular basis and letting in some sloppy goals. The defense is young, with three freshman likely starting in the back -- DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders Academy), Bryan Gallego (NYRB Academy) to name a couple of them.
The talent is there, and it will be a tough matchup for SMU, with the likes of Luke Holmes and Scott Caldwell in the midfield. Holding midfielder Wil Trapp is also one of the best in the nation at his age.
It's far from the second round opponent SMU would want to see.
As I previously mentioned, temperatures in the 70's, a non-tollway drive and a chance to see the storied Akron program in person for $6($3 for kids). Go support your city and SMU on Sunday night!
SMU Men's Soccer Promo 2011 (via KristinKB1)