Men's Side By Josh Austin (Guest Contributor)
The 2010 National Champion Akron Zips start off 2013 without former coach Caleb Porter for the first time in seven years. However, this fact should not dampen any expectations of what the Zips can accomplish this season.
The new head man, Jared Embick, is returning several key players from last years squad including pre-season All-American defender Bryan Gallego, forward Reinaldo Brenes and stud midfielder Aodhan Quinn.
Akron also brings in a few freshman who could see a lot of the field in their first campaign. The tops of that list are the super freshman trio of Brazilian defensive mid-field Victor Souto, who played with the Portland Timber's U-23 team along side Gallego and Brenes and had a very strong spring, Central midfielder Adam Najem, who was a top recruit American player from the New York RedBulls academy and even played with the RedBulls reserves this summer, and Chelsea FC academy wonder kid Ismail Seremba. Ismail has been with Chelsea FC since he joined their U-13 roster. He is very well trained in a possession style attack, and he can play inside or outside striker spots.
The Zips went Premier League academy shopping this winter and were also able to bring in Liverpool Academy mainstay Sam Gainford and a surprising pick up in Blackpool United academy star Louis Cross, who was named England's U-16 Independent Soccer Player of the Year. This helped them build a strong recruiting class despite a limited number of top American players available. These players should work well beside current starters Saad Abdul-Sallaam, Eric Stevenson, and highly marked red-shirted freshman keeper Fernando Pina.
It appears that despite the coaching changes, things remain basically the same for the Akron Zips. The Zips seem to be set for another very competitive year in the MAC and looking to be well in the conversation when the College Cup comes around. With again having great depth and several playmakers, the biggest question will be how quickly will the new players and staff gel and if there will be any coach change hangover period.
Women's side By Parker Perry
The Akron women's soccer team has been a program of hope for a few seasons now. It was not to long ago that the Zips took down Michigan in their opener. This sparked chatter inside the Akron soccer circles that the women's team would soon evolve into the national powerhouse like the men.
It has not been so. Despite the hype, the Zips have been lucky to clinch a spot in the Mid-American Conference tournament. The top eight teams in the conference, out of twelve, receive bids to that.
Second year head coach Vernon Croft led his team last year to a 6-11 record last year, but finished 2-8 in the MAC. The team had some outstanding bad luck a year ago. At one point, the Zips had lost six straight games by one goal. If you would reverse their luck, they would have finished close to the top of the MAC East.
This year will have to be a progression year for the program. Either win this year or the bad luck last year had nothing to do with luck at all.