The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

Former Zips make impression on D.C. United

It was the goal that sparked momentum, and one that proved to all that the Zips were here to stay.

It was also a goal that Perry Kitchen will probably never forget in his lifetime, although many will lose track of it overtime.

It was the goal that sparked momentum, and one that proved to all that the Zips were here to stay.

It was also a goal that Perry Kitchen will probably never forget in his lifetime, although many will lose track of it overtime.

Kitchen, who was a true freshman last season at UA, gathered the ball near midfield as time slowly expired with 12:28 left in the first half of a 1-0 Michigan lead in the National Semifinals of the 2010 College Cup in Santa Barbra, Calif.

At the biggest stage of all college soccer, Kitchen was somehow able to create space between two incoming defenders, firing a laser of a shot from 30 yards out into the upper right-hand corner of the net, just beyond reach of the outstretched arms of UM goalkeeper Chris Blais. The Zips won the game over the Wolverines 2-1, advancing to their second straight national championship game. This marked Kitchen’s sixth goal of the season and the last of his college career.

My most memorable moment besides winning the national championship was my goal against Michigan; it was just awesome for me, said Kitchen, who started at midfielder in all 25 matches in 2010 for the Zips.

What started as a desire that fell short the previous season ended up a reality for the Zips the following year.

It began on Dec. 14 after a painful loss in penalty kicks to Virginia in overtime at the NCAA College Cup Final in Cary, N. C. That day marked the beginning of something new for Chris Korb and his Akron teammates; it was the start of pure determination.

This determination was followed by hard work and dedication in the offseason, along with the addition of the 2010 recruiting class that included Kitchen, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer, an online website devoted to covering club and college soccer.

With Akron returning eight starters, many of the pieces of 2009 were still intact from a team that finished with a record of 23-1-1 overall.

The Zips returned to the same winning form, finishing the 2010 season with a 22-1-2 record while capturing UA’s first team national championship. Akron also became the third team from the Mid-American Conference to win an NCAA national championship, after Western Michigan’s men’s cross country program did so in 1964 and ’65.

Winning the National Championship while at Akron was definitely memorable for me, said Korb, a three-year starter on defense from 2008-2010 for the Zips. Four years of hard work and great chemistry with teammates who were basically your family was just amazing.

Like 2010, the 2011 season has started of with a bang, as a total of seven Zips were drafted in the MLS Super Draft Jan. 13, with five of them selected in the top eight. This surpassed Wake Forest’s previous record of four in 2010.

The seven players drafted from Akron set a new MLS draft record as the Zips passed the Demon Deacons in the record books again for the most players selected from one school, the previous record being six in 2009.

Contributing to that historic MLS draft day was D.C. United, who, with the third overall pick, selected Kitchen, and then Korb in the second round with the No. 30 pick.

I was a little nervous before the draft obviously, mostly because I had no idea where I would end up, Korb said. After I was selected, I was relieved and filled with pure excitement. Just knowing that you’re going to have the chance to play professional soccer is awesome, and it was something that I’ve wanted to do forever.

Kitchen, who was a Generation Adidas player in the draft, had similar feelings on draft day. Generation Adidas is a program between the MLS and U.S. Soccer aimed at raising the level of young soccer talent in the United States.

Before the draft, I was just nervous and didn’t know what to think because I didn’t know where I was going, but overall I was excited to make the leap to the professional ranks, said Kitchen, a native of Indianapolis, Ind.

Like Kitchen, Korb also expressed a great deal of excitement at being drafted to a storied franchise in D.C. United that, since 1995, has won four MLS Cup titles, the most out of any team in the MLS, with their last coming in 2004.

It’s a great situation; D.C. is one of the most storied franchises in the MLS, Korb said. It’s also kind of close to home, which makes it good for friends and family to come to games and visit.

For the pair of D.C. United rookies, the transition from college to the professional game has been somewhat smooth, as both players have played in at least three games while starting in two.

We have a new coach [Ben Olsen] and a ton of new players, Korb said. We’re one of the youngest teams in the MLS, so we’re trying to get our chemistry down. The first few games have been a little rough, but we’ve been in every game, so we’re optimistic.

Most rookies in any sport will say that the biggest difference from college to the professional level is the speed of the game and how everyone is much quicker; these two are no exception to the rule.

When talking about the overall depth of teams, Kitchen stated that there are more skilled and experienced athletes in the professional game compared to college.

One of the more important factors for these two is that they have each other to lean on this season.

The fact that Perry got drafted here, along with knowing somebody beforehand on the team is great, Korb said.

Korb and Kitchen were certainly in good hands, as UA Head Coach Caleb Porter and his staff have produced a total of 12 MLS daft picks in the last four seasons.

Caleb treats his program like a professional experience; everything we did there we’ve done at one point or another here in the pros. I can’t imagine any other school in the country preparing athletes for the pros better than him, Korb said. He’s done a great job the past couple of years in preparing talent for the MLS, and now those guys are doing well.

Coach Porter’s a perfectionist, and you have to do everything right, but all the little things add up, Kitchen said. He’s also very intense, and that’s what I like. He always gets the best out of his players and everyone loves playing for him. He’s obviously doing something right with all of us leaving; he’s doing great things, and I can only wish him the best.

Eventually, rookies all hit that point where they finally wake up and realize that they have finally reached their goal of becoming a professional. For some, it may be an embarrassing moment; for others, it could be the first time stepping on the playing field playing against big time talent.

Playing our first home game against the Galaxy and facing guys like David Beckham was great, Korb said.  Just standing on the field and looking around was pretty cool to take in. The atmosphere of having over 25,000 fans cheering for you along with the atmosphere was just awesome.

My first practice, I got a nice welcoming gift, said Kitchen laughing over the phone. What happened was I got crushed in the face with the ball and started bleeding everywhere; I guess you can say that was my welcome to the league.

With the MLS season now under way, the pair of rookies out of The University of Akron will now begin their professional careers for D.C
. United, but from time to time, they still talk to each other about their days in Akron.

My time in Akron was short, but it was great. I’ve been talking to Korb a lot since we’ve been here, and we just talk about the great memories we had, Kitchen said. The team and coaches were all close and we definitely had fun playing together.

Kitchen, who only played one year at Akron, may not have been as tenured as Korb, but both players shared one thing in common when they came to Akron: a goal that once looked like a possibility and finally became reality.

All Zip soccer players, no matter where they may end up, will always share that one special bond — the Akron brand of soccer.

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