Game story courtesy of Akron Athletic Communications
Photo Gallery (Butch Risma Photography)
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For the second-straight season, The University of Akron men's soccer team will play for the national championship following a 2-1 victory over Michigan Friday night in the second of two NCAA semifinal matches at Harder Stadium.
With the victory, the third-seeded Zips (21-1-2) will face top-seeded Louisville (20-0-3) in the final Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The Cardinals defeated fourth-seeded North Carolina 2-1 in today's first semifinal game.
Akron, which is attempting to win the school's first team national championship in any sport, broke a 1-1 tie in the 74th minute when Michael Nanchoff's free kick from the right flank found the head of Kofi Sarkodie near the back post. Sarkodie flicked the ball into the net from just inside the six for the game-winner.
Scott Caldwell was brought down from behind near the right touchline to prompt the restart. Akron becomes the first team to reach back-to-back NCAA Championship games since Indiana won consecutive titles in 2003 and 2004. Coincidentally, UA head coach Caleb Porter was an assistant coach on those Hoosiers teams.
For the second-straight game, the Zips had to play from behind as Michigan's Justin Meram tucked a blast from the top of the box inside the left post just 62 seconds into the contest, but UA kept its composure and controlled the offensive flow for much of the remainder of the first half.
Akron had a good look in the seventh minute, when Darlington Nagbe ripped a shot from straight on that deflected off the back of a Michigan defender and dribbled over to Nanchoff on the left wing. Nanchoff quickly gathered the ball and fired but his shot sailed wide right.
But that series sparked a shift in momentum as the Zips began to chip away at the Wolverines with their possession and finally broke through in the 33rd minute on a beautiful goal by freshman Perry Kitchen.
Kitchen gathered the ball near midfield, created space, and fired a laser from 30 yards into the upper right-hand corner of the net just beyond the outstretched arms of U-M goalkeeper Chris Blais. It was Kitchen's sixth goal of the season and his second in as many games.
The Zips' equalizer highlighted a 17-minute stretch that saw Akron launch 11 shots, including four on frame. In all, UA posted a 14-4 advantage in shots for the first half.
Both teams traded scoring opportunities midway through the second half. A long corner kick from Anthony Ampaipitakwong found the head of Sarkodie, who tried to flick the ball back post but was wide. Then, in the 64th minute, Michigan's Soony Saad collected the ball amidst a cluster of Akron defenders and banged one off the far post.