Those Akron fans still feeling the pain of the Zips loss in the semifinals of last year's NCAA College Cup got a bit of good news Thursday: The Zips were picked by Soccer America as the No. 1 team in the country.
The selection may come as something of a surprise to fans outside the MAC but Akron has always been a soccer powerhouse. That was evident when coach Jared Embick led the Zips to the semifinals against eventual-champions Stanford — the same Stanford led by USMNT wunderkind Jordan Morris — and went out in penalties.
While Embick lost Richie Laryea (who was drafted by Orlando City FC), starting goalkeeper Jake Fenlason, Sean Sepe and Andrew Souders, he has enough experienced talent on the roster to really make a push for Akron's second national championship.
The Zips will have plenty of competition throughout the regular season, traversing the typical MAC opponents while also playing No. 14 Seattle, No. 10 Georgetown and No. 16 UCLA within the first month of the season.
For a team that finished 18-3-3, you'd think the pressure couldn't be any higher for the Zips, but if anything is known of the program, it's that it knows how to navigate the stress. Perhaps the nightmare of last year's penalty knock out in the semifinals will be rectified this year. With Embick pacing up and down the sideline, nothing is too far out of reach.