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Akron 2018 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  University of Akron
Conference:  Mid-American
Coach:  Jared Embick – Sixth Season  
Final 2017 Season Ending Rank:  # 3 United Soccer Coaches, # 4 CSN
2017 Record:  18-4-2 overall, 4-1-0 in conference 

Five Year Win Total:

2013:  17

2014:  13

2015:  18

2016:  13

2017:  18

Key Personnel Losses from 2017 Team:  Senior forwards Sam Gainford and Stuart Holthusen, midfielders Paul Belana and Manuel Cordeiro, and defenders Niko DeVera, Nate Shultz, and Niko DeVera due to graduation.  Defender Joao Moutinho who elected to enter the professional ranks after his freshman season and midfielder  Nick Hinds who entered the professional ranks after his sophomore season. 
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  50 goals scored, fourteen allowed 
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game:  2.08 scored, 0.58 allowed 
2017 Key Statistic:  12-0-0 record at home

Background:  Akron is among the most consistently successful programs in college soccer. Since 2007, they have posted the highest winning percentage in the country recording a 189-35-28 overall record.  Akron has earned a total of thirty-two invites to the NCAA Tournament and is one of only four programs (Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, Akron) to have been awared a berth for the past eleven consecutive seasons.

The Zips have advanced to the College Cup (Final Four) a total of five times with the most recent trips being in 2017 and 2015 seasons and won the National Championship in 2010. 

Akron has had seventeen consecutive double-digit win seasons and has been the dominant team in the MAC securing the regular season title nineteen times and the conference tournament fourteen times since becoming a member of the MAC in 1993. 

Defender Joao Mountinho was named a 2018 All-American by the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News, the MAC Freshman of the Year, and an MAC All-First Team selection .  Midfielders Manuel Cordeiro and Nick Hineds and forwards Sam Gainford and Stuart Holthusen were also named to the 2018 MAC All-First Team.  Midfielder Paul Belana and defenders Niko De Vera and Nate Shultz were All-MAC Second Team selections.  

Number Starters Slated to Return in 2018:  Four


Coach Embick stated, "We have lost a lot of players this year and needed to bring in a lot of quality players to keep our competition level within the team very high."

Dion Akhigbe – Midfielder – Copley, Ohio – Played for North Challenger. 

Colis Biros – Midfielder – Canton, Ohio – Jackson High School – Played for the Crew SC Academy. 

Cristian Gennaro – Midfielder – Biella, Italy – Played with Orizzonti United in the Eccellenza League and Fulgor Valdengo and Citta di Cossanto in the Promozione League.  

Nick McCausland – Defender – Akron, Ohio – Green HIgh School – Played for the Internationals Academy.  All-Ohio selection. All-District, All-Conference. 

Marco Milanese – Defender – Isernia, Italy – Played for Isernia in the Eccellenza League. Played for Napoli U-17 team. . 

Ivan Nikolic – Forward – Toronto, Ontario – Silverthorn Collegiate Institute – Played for the Sigma FC program. Top-goal scorer for Silverthorn Collegiate Institute. 

Daniel Oliveira – Defender – Lisbon, Portugal – Played for Sporting CP.  Member of the U-17 Lisbon team.  

Diogo Pacheco – Midfielder – Lisbon, Portugal – Played for the G.S. Loures and Alverca Futbol Clubs.  Played with Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Odivelas Futebol Clubs.  

Carlo Ritaccio – Defender – Westbury, New York – Member of the U.S. Soccer residency program in Bradenton, Florida.  Played for BW Gottschee Club. 

Sam Tojaga – Midfielder – Erie, Pennsylvania – Played for Real Salt Lake Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as among the top 150 recruits in the class of 2018. 

Dennis Cole – Midfielder – Freetown, Sierra Leone Dunn School – Sophomore transfer from Sacramento State.  Two Time All-California Interscholastic Federation First-Team Member at Dunn School. 

Leonard Sohn – Defender – Richmond Hill, Ontario – Bill Crothers Secondary – Junior transfer from Manhattan where he appearred in thirty-one contests with twenty-three starts.  Played for Ontario Provincial.

Kotaro Umeda – Midfielder – Mayfield Heights, Ohio – Mayfield – A redshirt sopomore transfer from Louisville where he appeared in two contests last year.    

Outlook for the 2018 Season:  There is good news, not so good news, and a lot of question marks at Akron heading into the 2018 season.  The not so good news is that the Zips have a lot of voids to fill due to departures.  The good news is that Jared Embick will still have a talented roster to work with and will welcome a group of thirteen newcomers that have the potential to be very good.  In addition, it is hard to discount a program that been as successful as Akron has been.  The question mark is the ability of the newcomers and the returing players to plug the gaps that exist and team chemistry. 

Embick has effectivelly reloaded in the past but he has not faced anything close to the challenge of restocking that he faces in 2018 since perhaps his first season at the helm of the program back in 2013 when he had to replace All-Americans Scott Caldwell, Chad Barson and David Meves due to graduation as well as Will Trapp, DeAndre Yedlin, and Dillo Serna who elected to depart early to enter the professional ranks.  For the record the Zips were 17-4-1 in 2013, won the MAC regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.   

Akron has traditionally played an attack oriented style of soccer while also playing solid team defense.  The result is an enjoyable and exciting brand of soccer for both players and spectators. There is no reason to believe the Zips will substantively alter their system of play in 2018.   

First Energy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field will no doubt once again in 2018 be a great place to witness a college soccer contest.  However the Akron faithful on hand in 2018 may need a program to identity the players on the pitch.  On the offensive side of the ball, Akron faces the daunting challenge of replacing four out of their top five goal scorers from last year including the very dangerous forward duo of Stuart Holthusen (12g, 3a) and Sam Gainford (10g, 5a) who each netted five game-winning goals.  They will also be without the additional punch that midfielders Nick HInds (6g, 4a), Manuel Cordeiro (2g, 5a) and Pau Belana (0g, 3fa) brought to the pitch. 

Deparures on the defensive side of the ball include defenders Joao Moutinho (3g, 5a), Niko DeVera (0g, 4a) and Nate Shultz (2g, 2a). 

Returning staters who Embick will likely build around include senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt who had a 0.58 goals against average last year, redshirt junior midfielder Skye Harter (4g, 5a) who is the top returning goal scorer, junior forward Marcel Zajac (4g, 1a), and highly regarded sophomore center back Daniel Strachan (0g, 2a) who will now have the benefit of a year of starting experience under his belt.   

Sophomore forward Daniel Egbo (1g, 4a) who saw action in eighteen contests last year and redshirt senior forward Ezana Kahsey (2g, 3a) who appeared in twenty-two matches are among other returning players who will likely be called upon to play a greater role on the offensive side of the ball in 2018. Redshit senior defenders Morgan Hackworth (0g, 5a) and junior Reggie Laryea (1g, 0a) are among returning players who look to be in the mix on the defensie side of the ball.  

On first glace it looks like Akron may be in for a rare down season considering all the talent and experience that they have lost.  With so many gaps to plug, the 2018 season might be the year in which the other members of the six team MAC have a chance to exact a little revenge. On the other hand that may be an overreaction and the dropoff may not be that great.

It is reasonable to conclude that Akron will not be as strong and as experienced a team from top to bottom in 2018 as they were last year.  Nonetheless, they remain the team to beat in the MAC with the potential, if everything falls into place, to again win a lot of contests and make their presence known on the national scene.  A solid, although relatively small, necleus exists on both sides of the ball upon which to build and this is a program that somehow despite losses always manages to successfully reload.

Posted in 2018 Team Reviews

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