Man, it must feel good to be a Zips soccer fan.
Former coach Caleb Porter and three of the players he brought through the system at Akron won the MLS Cup on Sunday while Wil Trapp was on the losing end for Columbus Crew SC. Now the current Zips and coach Jared Embick will look to bring a national championship to Akron on Friday when they play Stanford in the national semifinal at Sporting Park in Kansas City at 8:30 Eastern on ESPNU.
Should they win, they will play the winner of the Clemson-Syracuse in the final.
Akron was able to squeeze past Creighton in the last round via a beautifully-struck free kick by Adam Najem in the second overtime period to give the Zips the all-important golden goal and a ticket to the national semifinal.
Now they face Stanford, which was ranked No. 8 coming into the tournament and showcase USMNT starlet Jordan Morris as the leader of its attack.
Morris will receive many of the accolades for Stanford's great season. He currently leads the team in goals — and it's not that close — with 11 in 16 games despite missing game and practice time due to USMNT commitments. The young forward clearly has a bright future ahead of him and nothing would be sweeter than leading a team that went out in the first round of the tournament last year to a potential championship.
In his way stands Najem, Akron's solid backline and Jake Fenlason minding the goal. While the Zips have failed to record a clean sheet during the postseason, the offense has typically bailed them out and the defense has found enough to hold teams to one or two goals.
An offense that boasts Najem, Stuart Holthusen, Richie Laryea and Sean Sepe constantly applies pressure to the opposition until they concede. This is where Akron needs to do the most work.
Just like Akron, Stanford has failed to keep a clean sheet throughout the tournament and needed overtime to overcome its previous opponent, Wake Forest, in the last round.
So it appears that it will be an offensive slugfest Friday. Only time will tell if Akron can sweep the nation championship sweepstakes this week. It may feel good to be a Zips fan, but it'd be even better to be a champion.