By Jordan Shim–
For the second consecutive season, men’s soccer exit the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight. The Cards fell to the Akron Zips 4-3 in a heartbreaking penalty shootout at Lynn Stadium. Louisville ends the season 13-2-5.
110 minutes of soccer wasn’t enough to separate the two sides, who met for the first time in the regular or postseason since the 2010 National Championship game, so the game went to a penalty shootout.
Marred by Mohamed Thiaw’s opening spot-kick miss, Louisville goalkeeper Will Meyer was forced to make two straight saves to give the Cards the advantage. However, Adrien Cabon and Sawyer Edwards had their kicks saved by Akron goalkeeper Ben Lundt, before Niko De Vera sent Meyer the other way to send the Zips to the College Cup.
“Well, its something we train,” Lolla said. “A guy like Mo hasn’t missed since… I can’t remember when so you’re confident in him leading off. And Will has done good saving a couple, so we felt like the group we had was effective at taking penalties. And Will would save a couple, which we did, but we just weren’t good enough on the night.”
Akron, from the opening whistle, was in attack mode. Being the listing team, they sent the ball forward in search of an early goal and pressed high when they lost possession. Louisville welcomed the pressure as they often play out from the back, getting into a rhythm.
Once the Cards became settled, Akron was on the back foot. A pair of corners almost resulted in a Louisville goal as Tate Schmitt went close a header, but the referee blew his whistle for a foul on Lundt.
The Cards followed it up with a header in the 17th minute. Adam Wilson curled in a cross from the left flank, and Thiaw rose up to head. Lundt was forced to punch the ball wide, but also had the aid of the whistle as Thiaw was offside.
Despite the Cards having a significant 7-2 shot advantage in the first half, the game was even. Louisville didn’t full advantage of their shot count, putting only one on goal.
What was more impressive was the defense yet again for the Cards. Louisville stifled a high-powered Zips offense, who scored 50 goals before the game, to just two shots, and barely troubling Meyer.
The second half played to the advantage as Akron became the aggressor once again and enjoyed more of the ball, leading to more chances. But neither team was able to produce quality chances.
Akron dominated the first ten minutes of extra time, forcing Louisville to defend. But the Cards surged back with two early chances to start the second half of extra time. Akron surged forward in the waning moments, but Meyer made two huge saves to keep the game level.
Louisville recovered in the penalty shootout after Thiaw sent his shot miles over the crossbar with two saves from Meyer. Cabon had a chance to seal the deal and send the Cards to Philadelphia, but Lundt parried away the Frenchman’s effort, and then Edwards in sudden penalties. De Vera’s shot silenced all of The Boyle-ing Point with his shot to advance and take on the winner of Wake Forest and Stanford.
You can follow Jordan on Twitter @tlcjordanshim.
Photos by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal