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Men's soccer NCAA first round: Northwestern @ Akron

Lotsa stuff happening on this here blog today.

The first-round NCAA tournament matchup between No. 16 NU and No. 10 Akron appears to be a game between two opposite programs.  Akron (13-3-4) is soccer royalty, the defending national champion, regularly ranked in the top 10, making its 26th appearance in the tournament.  Northwestern (11-4-5), meanwhile, just won its first ever Big Ten championship and is making its sixth tournament appearance, all within the last eight years.

But NU and Akron also enter the postseason with opposite mojo. The Wildcats are riding an 11-game unbeaten streak, while the Zips closed out the regular season with a 1-1-2 mini-slump.

Akron is hosting the game, and the Zips are an impressive 44-1-5 at home in their last 50 matches at Cub Cadet Field, so this will no doubt be a tough match for NU. Akron lost an MLS-record seven players to the MLS draft after last season, but the remaining guys are no slouch, as evidenced by their No. 10 ranking.

Seven Zips got named to the All-MAC first team, led by MAC Player of the Year Darren Mattocks, who has 18 goals (3rd in the NCAA).  Team-wise, Akron was 7th in the NCAA in scoring, at 2.1 goals/game, while allowing the 9th fewest goals per game, 0.62.

For our Wildcats, senior forward Oliver Kupe leads the team with eight goals, while freshman goalkeeper Tyler Miller is real solid in net, garnering first-team All-Big Ten honors. As a team, NU averages 1.5 goals/game and gives up 0.85 goals/game.

Akron has yet to allow a first-half goal this season. Meanwhile, NU has been a second-half team, scoring six goals in the final 15 minutes of its games. The last time these two teams met, in a second-round NCAA tournament game in 2008, NU won, 1-0.

The Zips should be favored tonight, but the games aren't played on paper for a reason. Winner travels to SMU for their second-round match. will have a live stream of this game, kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. CT, and if you're so inclined, let's use this post as the official game thread.

Go ‘Cats!