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No. 3 WVU Opens MAC Play vs. Akron

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (Sept. 29, 2021) – The No. 3-ranked West Virginia University men’s soccer team opens Mid-American Conference action against Akron on Thursday, Sept. 30. Kickoff at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium is set for 7 p.m. ET.

Thursday is Military and First Responders Night, with free admission into the stadium for individuals with a corresponding ID. The contest also features the third and final Happy Hour of the campaign, with half-off drinks from 6-7 p.m. Additionally, the first 300 fans in attendance will receive a WVU water bottle.

Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance by visitingWVUGAME.com to avoid lines at the gate on game day. In honor of the Mountaineers’ historic ranking, all tickets are $3 each in a special, online-only offer.

At the stadium ticket window on game day, tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for youth and seniors and $3 for groups. The discounted online pricing will be available until kickoff.

All tickets are general admission. WVU Students are admitted free with a valid WVU Student ID.

Fans who are unable to attend the match can follow along with live stats atWVUsports.com. The match also can be seen live on ESPN+, with Nick Farrell and Adam Zundell on the call, as well as heard on 91.7 FM in Morgantown.

“This is a little bit of a different team in terms of personnel from the spring,” WVU coach Dan Stratford said of Akron. “They have a lot of attacking qualities, so part of the danger is if we’re in possession, they have the potential to break on the counterattack. That can make for a very entertaining game.

“We’ll need to be very aware of how they position themselves and make sure if the ball turns over, we’ll be ready to nullify any issues as quickly as possible.”

Thursday marks the 24th meeting between the Mountaineers (6-0-2) and Zips (5-2-1), including the second in the last six months. Akron leads the all-time series, 18-4-1.

In the most recent meeting, UA earned a 3-2 win over WVU on April 7, 2021, in Akron. The Zips scored a goal in the 108th minute to claim the victory.

Of note, seven of WVU’s 12 matchups against Akron since joining the MAC in 2012 have ended in one-goal affairs.

West Virginia is 5-2-2 in MAC openers. Overall, the Mountaineers are 22-21-8 in MAC play.

WVU is coming off a 4-0 win over St. Bonaventure on Sept. 25, at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. Fifth-year senior defender Kevin Morris scored the game-winning goal in the 33rd minute, before freshman defender Frederik Jorgensen doubled the lead in the 50th.

The Mountaineers also scored a pair of 90th-minute goals by senior forward Yoran Popovic and sophomore midfielder Ryan Crooks. The two tallies were just 12 seconds apart, which tied for the sixth-fastest consecutive goals scored by a team in NCAA history.

In all, WVU outshot the Bonnies, 20-5, including 10-2 in shots on goal.

Following the match, Popovic was named the MAC Player of the Week on Sept. 27. The Zuidlaren, Netherlands, scored two goals in two West Virginia wins last week, and he totaled eight shots (five on goal) in the two fixtures. 

The award was the first of Popovic’s career and the second for WVU this season, after junior midfielder Luke McCormick also earned the conference honor on Sept. 6.

West Virginia checked in at No. 3 in this week’s United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division I Poll on Sept. 28, good for its highest ranking by the organization in program history. The Mountaineers also are No. 3 in the latest College Soccer News poll, as well as No. 9 by TopDrawerSoccer.

The Mountaineers’ eight-match unbeaten streak to begin the year is its longest to open a season since 2006. Of note, WVU posted a nine-match unbeaten streak to begin the 1968 season, marking the best start in program history. 

Stratford is 12-3-3 during his head-coaching tenure with the Mountaineers. Overall, he holds a career mark of 73-7-8.

Akron is led by ninth-year head coach Jared Embick, who is 109-46-18 during his tenure with the Zips. The squad enters Thursday’s matchup with a 5-2-1 mark on the year. Last time out, UA topped Yale, 1-0, on Sept. 25.

Akron is receiving votes in this week’s United Soccer Coaches poll. It also sits at No. 14 in the College Soccer News poll and No. 19 by TopDrawerSoccer.

Diogo Pacheco’s three goals, four assists, 10 total points and 21 shots are pacing the club. Three others – Dyson Clapier, Ryan Kingsford and Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal – also have posted multiple goals to begin the 2021 campaign.

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