The third time was the charm for the University of Akron. After two NCAA College Cup final defeats, the Zips and head coach Caleb Porter won the title at long last.
A goal by New England Revolution youth product Scott Caldwell was the difference as No. 3 Akron defeated top-ranked Louisville Cardinals 1-0 on Sunday to earn the college championship trophy.
In the 75th minute of play, Caldwell fired twice to beat Louisville ‘keeper Andre Bourdeax from close range. The midfielder’s first shot deflected off a Cardinals defender, but Caldwell pounced on the rebound and his second effort found the top of the net.
With just moments to play, the Cardinals failed to pull even, missing a pair of golden opportunities to tie the match.
First, Louisville forward Buck Tufty fired a shot that was saved by the Akron goalkeeper David Meves. Just seconds later, Aaron Horton – the last-minute hero for the Cardinals in their two previous matches – had a chance at an empty net, but defender Chad Barson cleared the shot off the line to preserve the Zips’ lead.
In the first half, Akron demonstrated its trademark possession-based play to dominate, but Louisville's organized defense kept the match scoreless.
Despite the Zips dictating the tempo, it was the Cardinals who owned the best chance of the half when Paolo Delpiccolo tested Meves, forcing the Akron 'keeper to come up with a big stop. Some slight controversy followed the save, as the ball appeared to bounce off the hand of an Akron defender in the box. Referee Chico Grajeda, however, ruled it a no-call.
Aside from the goal, the Zips’ best chances of the day came just after the hour mark. Potential MLS SuperDraft pick Darlington Nagbe picked the ball up from fellow forward Darren Mattocks behind the defense, but his shot went inches wide of the net. Minutes later, Mattocks forced Boudreaux into an acrobatic save.
With the victory, Akron (21-1-2) earned its first team title in school history and the first title by a Mid-American Conference Team since 1965. In addition, the Zips also became the first to bring a title to success-impoverished Northeast Ohio, which has been without a championship in team sports for over 40 years.
As for Louisville (20-1-3), the loss crushed its bid to become the first undefeated champion in more than a decade.