The Syracuse Orange (7-6-4) are the #16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is the fifth time in the Ian McIntyre era and sixth overall, when . They now also have their opponent in the Akron Zips (11-6-2). The Zips played an NCAA first round match, Thursday, against Rider, emerging 3-1 victors over the Broncos. The victory set up a rematch of the Orange and the Zips with all the marbles on the line this time.
The Orange met Akron earlier in the 2018 campaign, winning 3-1 in a match that Jonathan Hagman put his stamp on with a hat trick. Since that match, The Orange finished the season, at 3-2-2, including a win over the #1 seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons and a draw, 2-2, on the road at the Louisville Cardinals. The Zips finished the year since the matchup at 3-2-1, beating both Michigan State and Creighton, but also posting losses in league to West Virginia and Northern Illinois. They are currently riding a five game win streak, due to a three game run winning the MAC Conference Championship.
Moving into the match, there are a few names that the Orange will have to look into stopping. David Egbo is the most dangerous of the Zips, knocking in 12 goals on the year and adding 3 assists. As the number nine, he’s the goal man and in the first match against Syracuse, we were able to keep him somewhat under control. He did have seven shots, but only one on target. He’s good enough that I wouldn’t want to give him seven shots again, unless, much like the prior match, he’s not getting good looks at all.
The midfield also has some talent in a few positions. Marcel Zajac is the reigning NCAA Player of the Week, scoring six goals with seven assists on the season. He would be a solid option to put pressure on, keeping him from having time to throw a cross in or complete something through the middle. Skye Harter is an All-MAC selection as the number six on the squad. Morgan Hackworth, the former Syracuse, turned Akron midfielder/defender will be working to shut down his former team.
The defense for the Zips is also solid. Abdi Mohamed is a former All-Big Ten defender from Ohio State that has taken a spot as a right back in the defense for the Zips and made a mark. He seems to love and overlap and is dangerous both ways. The other three defenders are all freshman, but at this point in the season are well versed in what they’re doing at this level. Keeper Ben Lundt has a very solid 1.14 Goals Against Average this year, though we were able to throw three past him last time.
The prior match was the last that we saw the 3-5-2 formation, switching to the 4-3-3 at present, but the key to the match was the high pressure. Turnovers in their third and the ability for the Orange to take advantage on the counter will be big things against Akron. If the weather is below par, this could be even more paramount to harry and harass them. Unfortunately they also have played in conditions similar to what they’re likely to see. We’ll see how the field is on Sunday.
The Orange might look to exploit space behind Mohamed with Ryan Raposo, forcing Mohamed to stay pinned back. Rider had some success getting crosses in from that flank for just that reason. Playing pressure ball through the middle seemed to work last match as well. Hagman was constantly crashing goal, all three of his coming from put backs or deflections. Rider, in the second half, got their goal with some constant pressure on the Zips. The goal itself was a cross after they built through the middle, but the high press led to the turnover that levelized.
A friendly reminder for the upcoming match. While the university allows free admission to games, the NCAA requires ticket purchase. If I’m remembering from two years ago, it was around $7. You’ll definitely need that to park. One way or another, this should be a high quality NCAA Tournament match. The game is set to be played at Colgate (VENUE CHANGE) on Sunday, 11/18/2018 at 2 p.m. ET.