December 11, 2010

No. 1 Louisville, No. 3 Akron Advance to College Cup Final

Dec. 11, 2010

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - Akron advanced to the College Cup final for the second consecutive year, coming from behind to beat Michigan 2-1 on Friday night.

The third-seeded Zips (21-1-2) will face top-seeded Louisville on Sunday for the NCAA men's Division I soccer championship. Louisville (20-0-3), trying to become the first unbeaten champion since Santa Clara in 1989, scored in the final minute to oust North Carolina 2-1 in the first semifinal.

Akron was unbeaten in 2009 when it played Virginia to a 0-0 draw in the College Cup final, but the Cavaliers took the title by winning on penalty kicks at Cary, N.C.

Kofi Sarkodie broke a 1-all tie with Michigan in the 73rd minute before a crowd of 7,560 at UC Santa Barbara's Harder Stadium. He scored on a header off a free kick by Michael Nanchoff.

It was the eighth goal of the year for Sarkodie, who made the final penalty kick in Akron's shootout victory over California in the quarterfinals.

The one-goal margin was a far cry from the Zips' 7-1 rout of the Wolverines on Oct. 17.

Michigan (17-5-3) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Barely a minute into the match, senior forward Justin Meram dribbled to the top of the circle and unleashed a shot that Akron goalkeeper David Meves could only wave at. It was Meram's 17th goal of the year.

Akron freshman Justin Kitchen answered in the 33rd minute, ripping a 30-yard shot that swerved under the crossbar. Although the Zips outshot them 14-4, the Wolverines held the score to 1-all at halftime, as goalkeeper Chris Blais made four saves.

Michigan, the 10th seed in the tournament, had won nine straight games since its previous loss to Akron.

Louisville coach Ken Lolla will be facing his former school Sunday. He left Akron after the 2005 season and was replaced by Caleb Porter.

In the first semifinal, freshman Aaron Horton scored a winning goal in the last minute for the second consecutive game, lifting the top-seeded Cardinals over North Carolina.

"We're excited to be playing for the national championship, where we expected to be all along," said Lolla, who has turned the Cardinals into a premier team in five years.

Louisville is making its first appearance in the final four.

Horton picked up his second dramatic goal in a week. He connected in the final minute of Louisville's 5-4 victory over UCLA in a Kentucky snowstorm last Saturday.

Friday's game-time temperature was 63 degrees, and the Big East champions watched a sunset over the ocean after they arrived at their beach-front hotel on Wednesday.

"It was gorgeous," Lolla said. "But I told the team we can always come back and see this. We have work to do now."

North Carolina (16-4-4) was a minute away from taking the match into overtime, where the Tar Heels had excelled, when Louisville midfielder Ryan Smith intercepted a clearing pass. He took it up the middle and dished it to Horton on his left. Horton dribbled closer before chipping the ball over sprawling goalkeeper Scott Goodwin with 51 seconds left on the game clock.

Horton has scored three goals this year, all in the postseason.

Louisville outshot North Carolina 11-9 and became the first team to score more than once against the Tar Heels in 17 games.

Stephen McCarthy scored for North Carolina, appearing in its third consecutive final four.

After a scoreless first half, All-American defender Austin Berry put the Cardinals ahead 1-0 in the 62nd minute. He headed a deep corner kick by Dylan Mares inside the far post.

The Tar Heels tied it 4 minutes later when the 6-foot-4 McCarthy headed in Alex Dixon's crossing pass.

All three of North Carolina's games leading up to the College Cup had ended in ties. The Tar Heels advanced by winning penalty-kick shootouts.

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