Akron Wins College Cup, and What It Means for MLS

Akron Zips players stand arm in arm during the penalty kick shootout. The Virginia Cavaliers defeated the Akron Zips 3-2 in a penalty kick shoot out after a scoreless game and overtime in the finals of the 2009 NCAA Men's College Cup at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC on December 13, 2009. Photo via Newscom

The media attention around the 2010 College Cup was focused squarely on the University of Akron.  The Zips one of the most successful men’s college soccer program the past two seasons, losing only twice and making coach Caleb Porter a sought-after commodity on the MLS market (in DC at least).  In 2009, the Zips lost the 2009 College Cup on penalty kicks and made this season a mission to win the championship they felt they deserved.  On the other side of the match was Louisville, undefeated and by seeding the favorite going into the match, making this a highly anticipated college game that did not disappoint.

The Zips notched the game’s only goal in the 79th minute and survived a late chance by the Cardinals to win the College Cup 1-0.  It was sophomore Scott Caldwell who collected his own rebound and slotted the ball past the Cardinals keeper for the match’s only goal.  Louisville, who for most of the second half was dominated by Akron, was denied a penalty kick in the first half on a handball and had a great chance to tie late in the second half that was barely turned away.  Cardinals forward Aaron Horton collected a rebound from a saved corner kick and had a clear look at the goal, with the Zips keeper off the line and only defender Chad Barson standing between him and an empty net.  Barson was able to do just that and save Lousiville’s last chance.

So why is this match important to MLS fans?  For two reasons.  The first is the important role collegiate soccer plays in the American soccer landscape.  Even with the revived MLS reserve league and various development academies, collegiate soccer still has a niche for developing American talent.  Some MLS stars will always come from the collegiate ranks and a number of them currently do.  And NCAA soccer will always provide quality matches for soccer fans.

The second reason this match was important is the incredible amount of talent on the pitch during the game.  Akron could conceivably have almost ten players from this team signing some sort of professional contract within the next few months, despite having so few seniors.  Anthony Ampaipitakwong will certainly be drafted in the MLS Superdraft this offseason, but a number of his underclassmen teammates could also go with him or sign Generation Adidas contracts, depending on a number of factors.  One of them is the number of players like University of Maryland’s Ethan White who sign Home Grown Talent contracts, which would free up Generation Adidas dollars for Akron underclassmen like Zarek Valentin and Darlington Nagbe.

What did you think of the 2010 College Cup?

4 Responses to Akron Wins College Cup, and What It Means for MLS

  1. mike says:

    The College Cup this year was fantastic…well maybe that’s because my Zips won.

    It truly was a fantastic three games still, all close games, all with fantastic finishes.

    Check out http://www.akronsportsnow.com for my coverage of the Zips championship.

  2. Charles says:

    In the semi-final game, Akron looked just awesome. Not as much in the final, but both teams looked tired to me.

    For US Soccer overall:
    I realize many will be against the college system, but playing at this level in many very intense meaningful games is huge for these players.

    For MLS specifically:
    There are some serious studs coming into MLS next year from these teams and many other college teams. It is not a coincidence that NY and LA both went from the bottom to the top riding on the backs of stud defenders out of college. Seattle made the playoffs as an expansion team with Zakuani starting out of Akron.

    Hay is hoping DC is next.

  3. Dave C says:

    I heard Anthony Ampaipitakwong is one of the big names in college soccer…. 🙂

    Ha, old jokes aside though, I’d love to see that name fit on the back of an MLS shirt. I’m sure commentators would love it too.

  4. Short Passes says:

    I’m surprised that this topic hasn’t generated more discussion. For me this has been a watershed year for college soccer because neither the Zips nor Louisville are the standard squad of big goons lofting long balls all day and then running over everyone to push the ball into the net. The new style was exemplified by the comments of Caleb Porter, ——- “Our goal was to stay on the ball as much as possible,” said Porter. “The master of the game is the one who stays on the ball. Going into the second half, our No. 1 priority was to stay on the ball, make then defend and be patient. We knew it would eventually come, finding a goal. We gained more and more life, spirit and energy and Scottie found the goal. In the end, it got a little hectic and that’s the way it happens in soccer.” —– This marks a dramatic departure from the standard college game. In addition, the Zips, stature-wise were far from the normal hulking brutes coming out of college. Much the same could be said of Louisville. Is it possible that a new breed of college coach is arriving? Please let it be so!!! Before getting too carried away however, it should be noted that the MLS development teams had a hand in this final, the Chicago Fire specifically — two players from Akron and three from Louisville were members of the Chicago Fire PDL. College soccer has a very small niche in the future of MLS but teams like Akron and Louisville just might pry that niche open a bit.

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