The real futbol team

” A lot has changed since 2005, the year the University of Akron athletics put itself on the map. The football team won its first Mid-American Conference Championship and the soccer team sailed to the Elite Eight, even after a shady seed by the tournament committee.”

A lot has changed since 2005, the year the University of Akron athletics put itself on the map.

The football team won its first Mid-American Conference Championship and the soccer team sailed to the Elite Eight, even after a shady seed by the tournament committee.

Since then, the boys who wear pads every Saturday have gone through a rough patch. They had the talent but not the chemistry in ’06 and have the chemistry but lack the necessary talent and experience to compete this year.

On the pitch, the Zips had a solid year in ’06, even after the departure of the most successful UA coach (and arguably MAC coach), in any sport, in any era, who was lured away from the Rubber City by the Big East.

With Ken Lolla gone to Louisville, the powerhouse that he built was sure to suffer. But with the hire of an eerily Lolla-like Caleb Porter, who spent most of his career at soccer juggernaut Indiana as a player and an assistant coach, the drop-off never came.

Like Lolla, Porter’s recruiting both nationally and overseas, has been pristine and his team plays for him. He stresses the same points as Lolla: stingy defense, and offensive freedom within a system. The players he’s recruited make things happen for themselves and for teammates.

This past Saturday, the No. 17 Zips clinched their 10th regular season conference title with a win over Western Michigan in 14 years of MAC soccer.

Porter doesn’t have the top-heavy attack Lolla had in ’05, with future pros Ross McKenzie and Sinisa Ubiparipovic forming the best forward tandem in the country, but he does have one thing on his side: balance.

The Zips have four players who have scored five goals this year. Two are seniors (Pablo Moreira and Elliot Bradbrook), one is a junior (Matt Tutich) and one is a true freshman (Steve Zakuani). Another true freshman, Anthony Ampaipitakwong leads the conference in assists with nine.

Not only do the Zips have scoring punch, but they’ll have it in the following years. Ampaipitakwong and Zakuani have the potential to be the next McKenzie-Ubiparipovic combo up front and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they end up surpassing the best front-line combo in Zips history.

And the defense is arguably the best in conference history. Statistically speaking, it would be impossible to have a better defense than the Zips have had in MAC play because they didn’t give up any goals. Go ahead and read that last sentence again. No goals in MAC play.

There is no doubt UA has earned at least an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament, that is, if they don’t win the MAC tournament.

They’re the one team at UA that never seems to suffer a down year. No problems with chemistry and few, if any, problems with players. Just winning.

It’s a little different on the gridiron, with the sport being infinitely more popular in the country, but even still, who’s the real futbol team on campus?