VCU kicked-off their 2015 season with a 12-Round slugfest against #25 Akron in a highly physical contest at Sports Backers Stadium on Friday night that needed extra rounds to decide the victor.
Akron came out firing in the first half as they controlled possession with ease as VCU struggled early to get the offense going. Moving the ball all across the pitch, Akron was only able to get a few shots towards VCU goalkeeper Garrett Cyprus but none of them were on target.
The physicality of the match was on full display as both teams squared up and dished out powerful tackles along with a few bumps and jersey pulls. Akron’s Pau Belana was shown a yellow card for his physicality after a tackle gone bad in the 12’ and VCU’s Jorge Hërranz took an elbow to the nose which lead to a quick injury timeout at the 32’ before he was back in action after treatment moments later.
VCU were finally able to get a productive attack going later in the 1st half which included a sequence in the 36’ where Jack Bates was able to get a shot inside the box just wide of the post after making a run towards goal.
The 2nd half started similar to the beginning of the 1st except this time the ball finally found the back of the net. After 2 quick attempts by Akron, Sam Gainford got it by Cyprus in the 55’ at a near impossible angle on the left side and fired it right in with ease to give Akron a 0-1 lead.
VCU did not back down and quickly picked themselves up along with their attack and physicality. They were rewarded with an equalizer by Jason McGlothern after Cody Sweatte sent the ball on frame and it bounced off the cross-bar back to McGlothern who finished off the chance to tie the match at the 64’ mark.
Akron was able to score the go-ahead moments later in the 78’. Sean Sepe sent in the corner kick for Akron to Gainford who was able to spin around the VCU defender inside the box and send one to the right of Cyprus to score his 2nd of the match for the Zips.
In what seemed to be a victory for the visitors, VCU played spoiler in the closing moments of the match and found another equalizer thanks to Dennis Castillo. Sweatte was able to get a foot on the ball in the box during the 88’ for the Rams and Jake Fenlason made the save. Seconds later Fenlason made a save off the rebound chance and the third chance was VCU’s charm as it popped into the air in front Castillo who headed it in to draw level.
Akron had one final attack before time ran out and Cyprus came up huge making the diving save before time expired.
Extra time was needed to decide the result and in the 1st period, Akron controlled possession and attacked early. VCU’s defense was able to withstand and launched a counter attack lead by Sweatte in the 96’ but Fenlason came up with the save. The physicality was still at high levels between the two teams which lead to VCU’s Steven Dal Molin and Cody Sweate leaving the pitch with injuries during the 1st extra time period.
Akron was finally able to land the knockout blow they were looking for in the 2nd extra time period where Adam Najem was able to send a cross from the right side to Anthony Macchione who headed in the game winner to give the Zips a 2-3 victory in a thrilling matchup of Friday Night Futbol.
Next up for VCU is a Sunday evening matchup with #21 Coastal Carolina at Sports Backers on August 30th. Kick-Off scheduled for 5 PM.
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