SANTA BARBARA, California – The Akron Zips buzzsaw ripped through the Michigan State defense in the opening game of the 2018 Men’s College Cup. Sophomore forward David Egbo scored the opening goal. Carlo Ritaccio, Skye Harter, Marcel Zajac, and Braden Petno also added goals in the 5-1 victory for the Zips. Michigan State’s Patrick Nielsen scored a consolation goal in the second half.
The Zips lived up to the name on Friday with crisp passing and clever movement that left Michigan State chasing shadows for much of the game.
Akron was clinical in front of the goal in the game. Egbo’s opening tally came on the first chance of the game. Egbo was the key player in the opening goal. He was the finishing touch and the building block of the movement. The target forward found a ton of success in the first half as the gap between the Michigan State midfield and defense left a cozy corridor for the center forward to check in for the ball and link up with the rest of the Akron attack. Egbo sat out the second half with the Zips comfortably ahead and Ezana Kahsay having an excellent game in his role.
The opening goal had the play roll out wide to the left channel. Midfielder Skye Harter lofted his cross to the far side and Morgan Hackworth did well to put the shot toward target. Hackworth’s shot hit off the crossbar. Egbo did not make a mistake with his finish and volleyed the ball into the back of the net. It was Egbo’s 13th goal of the season, and third of the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State had the better run of play after the opening goal for the next 10 minutes. A few sloppy touches from the Akron midfielders and attackers opened up some chances for the Spartans on the break. Hunter Barone had the best chance but Akron goalkeeper Ben Lundt denied him with a leg save.
“[Ben] Lundt is a great goalkeeper,” Michigan State head coach Damon Rensing said about the opposing keeper. “I think this Final Four has four exceptional goalkeepers. They punished us in the final third, and the final third was the difference in the game.”
Ryan Sierakowski and DeJuan Jones also had shots on goal, but Lundt and Abdi Mohammed’s save off the line kept Michigan State off the board in the first half. The three saves in the first half destroyed some of the confidence of the Michigan State attackers.
Akron doubled the lead in the 32nd minute. Colin Biros delivered the corner kick and fellow freshman Carlo Ritaccio headed it home for his third goal of the season. The center back’s glancing effort split Michigan State goalkeeper Jimmy Hague and the defender on the post. It was perfect placement off the set piece.
There was no slowing down Akron in the second half. Skye Harter made it 3-0 on a brilliant free kick. Marcel Zajac grabbed his seventh goal of the NCAA Tournament on a brilliant strike from 25 yards out.
“That was a free kick I’ve practiced a few times,” Sky Harter said about his goal. “I saw the goalkeeper leaning a bit and thought I could bend it to that corner.”
“I like to cut inside. Ezana [Kahsay] made a great run to pull a defender.” Zajac said about his goal. “I knew I had to be decisive. It took a slight deflection but had enough to get in.”
Michigan State pulled one back through Patrick Nielsen. The defender nodded home a corner kick. John Freitag was credited with the assist on the goal.
Akron’s Braden Petno added the final goal with five minutes to make it 5-1 Akron. Petno scored on the rebound off a shot from Daniel Oliveira that hit off the crossbar.
“In these quick turnarounds, I was trying to manage the game,” Akron head coach Jared Embick said about the deep bench and getting nine players off the bench into the game.
Akron returns to the field on Sunday to play the winner of the second semifinal between Maryland and Indiana.