Akron Zips Past Gauchos

Rodney Michael scored the first goal of his collegiate career against Akron on Saturday night. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Rodney Michael scored the first goal of his collegiate career against Akron on Saturday night. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In a matchup between two of the top college soccer programs of the last decade, the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team welcomed Akron to Harder Stadium on Saturday night and fell by a score of 3-1.

Akron, ranked No. 20 by Soccer America and receiving votes in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll, entered the match fresh off a 2-0 win over No. 10 Washington earlier in the week and used the momentum for a quick start against UCSB.

In just the seventh minute of the match, the Zips found the back of the net after Marcel Zajac snuck behind the defense and fired a tough shot from the right side that deflected off the bottom of the crossbar into the goal.

"They came in as good as advertised," said head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "They are a good team and they took advantage early."

The Gauchos, who were playing without one of its top defenders in senior Randy Mendoza, felt his absence after conceding a second goal before the end of the half. Akron forward Sam Gainford utilized some fancy footwork to break free on the left side of the box before crossing the ball to a cutting Zajac, who knocked in his second goal of the game in the 40th minute.

After being outshot 8-1 at the break, UCSB looked to turn the tide and came out with much more energy in the second half. After drawing a foul in the 73rd minute, Brandon Magpayo lined up for a free kick on the right side of the pitch and sent a perfect cross into the box that found Rodney Michael, who headed it into the goal from inside the six-yard box.

With all the momentum on their side, the Gauchos nearly converted the equalizer just a minute later after shots from Noah Billingsley and Jan Ilskens just missed the mark.

On the counter attack, Akron was awarded a penalty shot after goalkeeper Alan Carrillo was tagged with a controversial yellow card after coming off his line and colliding with a Zips forward. Carrillo guessed right on the penalty shot but the ball just snuck under his outstretched arms to give Gainford a goal and Akron a 3-1 lead in the 86th minute to put the match out of reach.

"Overall, I was really pleased by our response at halftime," Vom Steeg said. "I thought we came out in the second half and played hard, pressured, fought and that's what we're going to have to try and build on."

The Zips outshot UCSB 10-5 and held a 5-4 edge in corner kicks, with all five of their corners coming in the second half. Michael led the Gauchos with two shots while Gainford and Stuart Holthusen each tallied a game-high three shots apiece for Akron. Carrillo finished with three saves.

UCSB (0-3-2) is winless through its first five games of the season for the first time since 1998 and first time in the Vom Steeg era. The Gauchos will look to get in the win column this Tuesday, Sept. 12 when they travel to New York to take on St. John's at 4:00 p.m. PDT. The match will be streamed on ESPN3.

For ticket information, please click here or call the UCSB Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.