Falcons hang with nationally-ranked Zips, get put away in second half

The BG men’s soccer team lost 4-0 to the No. 23 Akron Zips (10-2-2) on Saturday, dropping its overall record to 3-9-3, and conference record to 0-2-1.

Despite the loss, coach Fred Thompson said he was relatively pleased with his team’s play, especially in the first half.

“I thought at the end of the first half, it was pretty even. The second half was going fairly well until we let in the second goal,” he said.

Akron scored its first goal with 21:47 left in the first half when the Elliot Bradbrook fired a shot from 30 yards out which found its way into the back of the net.

With the score 1-0, the Falcons had an opportunity to tie the match later in the first half when a few prime scoring opportunities arose off a Cameron Hepple free kick.

“It was a great kick over the wall,” Thompson said of Hepple’s free kick. “It hit the crossbar and the post, came down and bounced to Jacob Lawrence, but he just couldn’t quite get it back on goal.

“They had one great opportunity, and we had one great opportunity, but they scored and we didn’t.”

At the half, the Falcons were only down 1-0 and playing neck-and-neck with one of the nation’s best teams. Unfortunately for BG, the Zips would come out on a tear in the second half and never look back.

Just 10 minutes into the second half, the Zips’ Steve Zakuani sent the first of his game-high two goals into the back of the net from 40 yards out. Akron would add their final two goals in the 81st and 83rd minutes to seal the victory.

“Once they got the second goal [of the game] we had to change a little bit of how we played because they are a very solid defensive team,” Thompson said. “I think that left us a little bit open and leaving us playing a little bit more differently than we usually do.”

In the end, the Falcons were held to a season low of 7 shots. The Zips tallied 18 total shots, with 11 of those coming in the second half.

“At some point after their second goal in the second half, we just lost our heads a bit,” Hepple said. “I guess it was a lack of experience compared to them as a mature team.

“I guess we just let our heads drop.”

The game was played at night and under the lights in Akron’s Lee Jackson Field, which is a notoriously tough environment for opposing teams. But Thompson said the environment was fun for his team to play in, and was a great experience.

“The environment was great,” Thompson said. “It was great playing under the lights there at Lee Jackson Field. They had the students behind the goal that were obnoxious and loud, and it was great.

“It was also their senior night, so they had a little extra stuff going for them as well.”

The Zips came as the fourth-highest ranked opponent the BG has faced this season, but Thompson says they stood well above the rest of the Falcons’ competition. “I would say to this point they would be the best team we have played this year,” Thompson said.

“They are very solid in every position, and then they have a couple of special players on top of that,” he said.

“They are a team full of juniors and seniors, so they had the experience that I guess overpowers them compared to other teams,” Hepple said.

With just three games left in the regular season – all of which are at home – the Falcons are still in position to play at home for a MAC Tournament play-in game.

The team’s next game comes at home Wednesday at 3 p.m. at BG’s Mickey Cochrane Stadium when it will take on Detroit Mercy.