MT. PLEASANT, S.C. - The College of Charleston men's soccer team lost a 2-0 decision to No. 8 Akron in its season opener at Patriots Point as part of the Nike / Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic on Friday evening.
CofC (0-1) proved itself equal to the perennial-powerhouse Zips for the majority of the contest but surrendered a pair of late goals - one of which coming fortuitously for the Zips on a Cougar-committed own goal - while playing down a man after a red card in the 70th minute.
Aodhan Quinn scored the decisive goal in the 80th minute after a nice piece of play from Eric Stevenson kept a ball in play along the endline deep in the Cougar box. Stevenson played the ball back to Matt Foldesy who furthered it to Quinn in front of a gaping net.
On an 87th-minute Akron corner kick, the ball took an unfortunate deflection off a Cougar defender and caromed into the back of the net, giving the Zips the 2-0 lead.
"I thought we did a very good job," said head Coach Ralph Lundy. "Akron is a great team, no doubt about it. It's funny, at that point in the second half [the point of the red card], we had started to keep the ball. We had several chances on counter attacks in the second half. We finally started keeping the ball and they started getting tired, which we hadn't been able to do all game. It's unfortunate that the red card occurred because of the climate and the effort we'd already put in. When you lose control and get red carded it puts your own team in jeopardy and it took us out of the game.
"Hats off to Akron, they're an extremely good team."
Cougar goalkeeper Kees Heemskerk (Zaandam, Netherlands) was brilliant in goal and made a career-high nine saves, tying for the 10th single-game high in CofC history.
The Cougars had to weather Akron's dynamic attack to the tune of 23 shot attempts for the Zips, but the backline of Tam McGowan (Glasgow, Scotland), Tanner Clay (Gilbert, Ariz.) and brothers Connor and Tucker Coons (Alpharetta, Ga.) were highly efficient in sorting out the Zip attackers.
All four defenders played a full 90 minutes, as did defender-turned-midfielder Daan Brinkman (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and offensive spark Troy Peterson (Federal Way, Wash.).
From the opening whistle, the Cougars showed they would not back down to the 2010 National Champions with an early offensive push and quality pressure in the attacking third during the opening minutes.
Around the 10-minute mark, the Zips started to put their stamp on the match and transition into their attacking brand of soccer, peppering Heemskerk with a few attempts which the senior keeper struggled minimally with as the match began to take its shape.
Heemskerk's toughest early test came in the 33rd minute when Quinn found himself a bit of space in the left side of the box and ripped a low shot to the near post, but Heemskerk made a diving safe to his left and muffled any potential rebound. The shot was one of a match-high eight attempts by Quinn.
Heemskerk quickly played the ball ahead as the Cougars surged on the counterattack, and a long run up the right side by Ike Crook (Federal Way, Wash.) was thwarted as the freshman's shot attempt ran across the goal mouth and narrowly wide of the far post.
The Cougar defense was tested in the early portion of the second half, but the backline showed great awareness to limit Akron's looks at the goal and force the Zips to settle for shots through traffic.
CofC reinserted itself into the match around the 50-minute mark and started to take the pressure of its defense with ball control and possession. Crook led another run up the right side and left a centering feed for Xavier Rajpaul (Port of Spain, Trinidad) who made a clever back-heel attempt but it marginally bounced wide right.
Moments later, Peterson showed strength on the ball to win a foul call around midfield. Brinkman played a ball into the box from the center circle which was headed laterally by the 6-3 Connor Coons. Clay was waiting at the right post and headed it into the net from there, but the play was whistled offside - much to the disappointment of the now-electrified 1,230 person crowd.
The Cougars carried the momentum from the play forward and remained the more offensive team over the next segment of the match until a red card issued to Crook in the 70th minute deflated the attack effort. Two yellow cards - one to each side - were also issued after a tie-up on the field.
Playing up a man, the Zips reseized control of the match and engineered several chances until breaking through in the 80th minute.
The Cougars complete play in the Memorial Classic on Sunday, Sept. 1 against No. 27 Xavier. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. from Patriots Point.
"We put a lot into tonight, and this weather takes it out of you," said Lundy. "But, Xavier played overtime today [a 4-3 loss to Furman] so we both have to turn it around and play on Sunday. We'll rest as much as we can and be ready to lace them up on Sunday.
"It was a wonderful environment tonight. This is a wonderful park and we appreciated the support tonight. People support us and enjoy our team and we enjoy our fans."