No. 10 Panthers overcome early deficit, fight to 3-3 draw against No. 14 Akron


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior forward Bertin Jacquesson (10) kicks the ball during the Pitt men’s soccer game vs. Akron Monday night.

By Brian Sherry, Staff Writer

No. 10 Panther men’s soccer team battled the No. 14 Akron Zips to a 3-3 draw Monday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field. Ultimately, neither team could gain the upper-hand in the high-scoring top 15 match-up, despite a boost from the strong Pitt home crowd. 

Despite being down 2-0 early, the Panthers (5-1-1, 2-0 ACC) clawed their way back, forcing a draw with the Zips (. Despite the disappointing finish, head coach Jay Vidovich was proud of his team for overcoming such a large deficit against a top-tier opponent. 

“Credit to Akron for manufacturing some goals,” Vidovich said. “But not many teams can fight back from a 2-0 deficit.” 

Akron struck early, dominating the time of possession for much of the first 10 minutes of play. The Zips aggressive control of the ball paid off, as junior forward Ryan Kingsford snuck a shot past Pitt senior goalkeeper Joe Van Der Ser to take a 1-0 lead. The goal was Van Der Ser’s first allowed goal in three games.

The Zips continued their red-hot start by scoring another goal in the 17th minute. This time sophomore midfielder Dyson Clapier scored off a shot to the bottom-left corner of the goal, just out of Van Der Ser’s reach. 

The Panthers failed to capitalize on early opportunities. Graduate student forward Josh Luichini launched a shot just wide of the net on a Panther breakaway. Luichini again had another scoring opportunity a few moments later, but again missed wide of the net. The Panthers ultimately out-shot the Zips 8-5 in the first half. 

Junior midfielder Filip Mirkovic was disappointed with his team’s start, but thought the team learned from their early mistakes.

“Things went sideways,” Mirkovic said. “But that’s a lesson we needed to learn. We needed to fix some things and that’s what we did.”

Akron goalkeeper redshirt first-year Mitch Budler stymied an aggressive Panther attack in the 23rd minute, recording a clutch save off a close shot from graduate student midfielder Rodrigo Almedia. The Zips goalkeeper managed to keep composed for much of the first half, despite a flurry of Panther shots. 

The Panther’s aggressive shot taking finally paid off in the 43rd minute, when senior defensive midfielder Mohammad Abualnadi fired a shot into the left corner of the net  cutting down on the Akron lead to one. 

With mere seconds left in the half, Mirkovic fired a shot into the back of the net, electrifying the crowd at Ambrose Urbanic Field. The goal evened the score 2-2 to end the first half. Mirkovic said he felt a momentum shift following his buzzer-beating goal.

“Chances came and we took those chances,” Mirkovic said. “That’s what we needed, that little boost, to come out in the second half to start strong again. And that’s what we did and it really helped us out alot.”

The Panthers looked energized to start the second half, keeping control of the ball for much of the period’s opening minutes. Pitt first-year defender Noah Hall utilized the Panther momentum scoring  in the 50th minute to give the Panthers a one-goal advantage. Hall said he felt no defenders as the ball fell to him to score the lead-taking goal. 

“I was just going to the back post and felt nobody touching me,” Hall said. “The ball came to me and I just headed it in. It was kinda like slow motion, it was like a dream.”

But the lead was short lived, as the Zips unleashed a flurry of shots in the 52nd minute. The Panther defenders tried their best to clear the ball, but to no avail. Akron first-year midfielder Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal finally capitalized off the Zips attack, tying the score at 3-3. The Panthers seemed on the ropes for a moment as the Zips quickly put another shot into the net, but the goal was called back for an offside. 

Hall said he had to quickly shake off the frustration of losing the lead to help his team.

“Of course I felt frustrated,” Hall said. “But I wanted to help the team get back on the board.” 

The end of the second half came down to defense. Pitt continued to rattle off shots, but the Akron defense prevented the Panthers from gaining the upper-hand. The Panthers dominated on offense in the second half, outshooting the Zips 10-4 in the final period. 

Despite their offensive dominance, the Panthers couldn’t find a way to score a decisive fourth goal, resulting in a 3-3 draw between the two sides. The Panthers will look to get back in the win column against Louisville on the road this Friday. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. on ACC Network.