After playing to a scoreless draw on Wednesday in Akron, the Western Michigan Broncos welcomed the Akron Zips to Kalamazoo for a rematch on Sunday. After honoring their seniors Brendan Skinner and Pepe Martinez-Bertrand prior to the game, WMU kept their post season hopes alive by taking down the Zips in a thrilling 4-3 victory.
Just a few minutes into the game it was obvious that this was not going to be a repeat of Wednesday’s match. Eric Conerty took a pass from the head of Mike Melaragni and deposited into the back of the net to put the Broncos on the board less than three minutes into the game.
The Broncos didn’t wait long to strike again with Melaragni getting in on the scoring action with a goal of his own around the 13 minute mark to give WMU a 2-0 lead. The Broncos certainly knew they had to win this game to make the post season and they were playing with a definite sense of urgency and an energy that Akron could not match out of the gates.
WMU kept their foot on the gas pedal and were rewarded again in the 26th minute. A long throw in from freshman defender Aidan O’Connor got bounced around the Akron box before finding the foot of Dylan Sing. Sing sent the ball into the back of the net and the Broncos took off to celebrate with their fans.
Despite conceding three early goals, the Akron players knew they weren’t out of it yet and kept pushing. A number of excellent scoring chances were stymied by WMU goalkeeper Isaac Walker to keep the Zips scoreless, but with less than five minutes remaining in the first half Akron broke their scoring drought as Dyson Clapier fired the ball into the net to tally his first goal of the season. This allowed the Zips to claw back a little bit of momentum and go into halftime down 3-1.
Akron came out of halftime pushing hard and were promptly rewarded. Less than two minutes in the second half they drew a penalty kick, which Diogo Pacheco blasted into the back of the net. Just like that it was back to a one score game.
The teams traded scoring chances back and forth over the next several minutes before the Broncos lit up the scoreboard once more in the 64th minute. Brennan Creek found the net for the goal to put the Broncos back up 4-2. He would later be named Mid-American Conference Men’s Soccer Co-Player of the Week for his efforts.
Being down two goals, the Zips went back on the attack and did their best to keep possession on the WMU end of the field. Their efforts came to fruition in the 85th minute when Daniel Strachan scored to bring it back to a one goal deficit.
The game got chippy over the next few minutes with both teams being assessed two yellow cards each over the remaining five minutes. The season was on the line for both teams and the intensity certainly showed. Just when it seemed that things may reach a breaking point the Broncos were able to get possession down in the Akron zone and salt the game away.
The final horn sounded and the Broncos took the 4-3 victory. With the win WMU improved -to a perfect 5-0 at home and an overall record of 7-3-1 (5-3-1 in conference) for the season. Following a brief victory celebration, Bronco fans quickly pulled out their phones to check on the score at the Bowling Green vs Northern Illinois game. After securing their win, the Broncos then needed a Bowling Green loss to secure the MAC title. That game headed into overtime, but Bowling Green eventually broke through to take the win and claimed the MAC title.
After missing out on the MAC championship, and the automatic qualification for the NCAA tournament that it provided, WMU was left to tune into the selection show on Monday in the hopes of being selected for an at-large bid for the tournament. Unfortunately their name was not called and their season is now officially over.
Check out the gallery below for photos from Sunday’s action.