Men’s soccer hope to zip past the Zips

By Jacob Onak

Coming off of its 1-0 loss to Marquette, NIU men’s soccer will face off against the third-ranked Akron Zips in its third conference match of the season Saturday.

Akron head coach Caleb Porter leads a Zips (8-1-2, 3-0-0 MAC) program that has become a powerhouse in college soccer. After this season ends, Porter will go on to lead the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer.

The Zips have had 12 players drafted in the MLS Super Draft in the last three years alone.

Coach Eric Luzzi said the Huskies (3-6-2, 2-0-0 MAC) will be facing a familiar Akron side.

“It’s a pretty typical Akron team,” Luzzi said. “They’re very technical and they try to find a rhythm and a shape when they get the ball, and they want to keep the ball as long as they can and try to break you down over time. They are pretty much like every other Akron team we’ve played.”

The Zips have multiple attacking options this year as they are led in goals by senior Scott Caldwell with seven and junior Reinaldo Brenes with six. Eric Stevenson has added five goals.

NIU senior Rocco Taglia said the Huskies are prepared for their strong test Saturday.

“We are looking into how we are going to play not how they are going to play against us,” Taglia said. “So I think we are really prepared for it.”

The Zips like to get as many players forward as they can, including their outside players. NIU’s attacking players, like Gael Rivera and Parker Thornton, will be asked to do more defending than they are used to, as they will try to contain the attacking outside backs.

NIU striker James Stevenson said the team will try to defend first and transition well off the counter.

“I think we need to look after our own goal first,” Stevenson said. “[And] Try to get a few chances on the break and get some combination plays.”

Akron has won the MAC Regular Season Championship the last seven years.