AKRON, Ohio - An early defensive misplay put the Cleveland State University men's soccer team in an early hole from which it was never able to recover as Akron scored early and late in a 2-0 victory Tuesday evening at a pleasant FirstEnergy Stadium.
Akron is the third side that Cleveland State has faced this year that is within the top 25 of the NCAA's RPI rankings.
Head coach Kirk Harwat made a trio of changes to the starting XI from CSU's last outing, with junior Gianluca DiFranco and freshman Dan Manolache returning to the lineup. Additionally, redshirt junior Pavle Majerle made the start in the net, the first of his career.
With the Vikings' two primary starters at center back forced out of the lineup, the combination of two new central defenders and a new goaltender manifested itself right out of the gate. A miscommunication on a back pass from a CSU defender gifted Akron a tap-in goal in the opening minute.
Cleveland State immediately brought the ball down to the Akron box off the restart with junior Noah Pio forcing a diving save from the Zip keeper on a shot from near the corner of the box.
The match then settled down for 20 minutes or so with neither team generating much offense. In the 21st minute, Majerle dove to tip a shot wide of the net. With him scrambling to get back in position, an Akron shot on the rebound was blocked by a CSU defender, possibly saving a goal.
About two minutes later, DiFranco blasted a shot from outside the area that called Akron keeper Tor Saunders into action. Not long after, junior Antonio Burgoa then rounded a defender heading into the box and was taken to ground, but no call was made.
In the 37th minute, Majerle saved a hard-hit shot from close range. Cleveland State then had a good run of position, earning back-to-back corners, which produced a Vlad Jandric shot that curled wide and a cross from Lawrence Karpeh that was a tad overhit for its intended target.
The only real chance of the first 15 minutes after the interval came when Pio drew a foul to earn a free kick. Senior Kareem Banton whipped in a free kick into a dangerous area, but no Viking was able to clearly win the ball.
Majerle made a couple of top-notch saves in the second half with CSU still trailing by a goal. In the 64th minute, he adjusted after a shot was deflected to recover and knock away the high redirection. He then proceeded to pounce on the rebound before an onrushing Zip could get there.
In the 82nd minute, he made a diving stop to his left to protect his near post on a free kick. However, on the ensuing corner, neither side won the ball, and it was left bouncing in the box. The Zips poked it into the net from close range to double their lead.
Just over a minute later, Pio got forward down the right flank and then beat a defender in the box. However, his ensuing shot toward the far corner sailed over the bar.
Majerle finished with six saves in his collegiate debut while sophomore Vlad Jandric also provided a couple of key blocked shots.
Cleveland State will continue its four match road trip this Saturday, Oct. 14, as it travels to Horizon League co-leader Green Bay.