Following a convincing home victory Friday night, No. 3 Pitt men’s soccer suffered its second loss of the season Monday night. The Panthers fell on the road, 2-1, to the No. 19 Akron Zips.
While the Panthers showed an increased level of aggression and confidence in their victory against Lehigh Friday night, the Zips presented an entirely new challenge. Pitt struggled to maintain possession of the ball early, but its backline held strong early in the match.
In the 12th minute of play, however, the Zips increased their aggression, and slipped past the Pitt defense. First-year Akron midfielder Dyson Clapier headed a shot just past the outstretched arms of Pitt graduate student goalkeeper Nico Campuzano to give the Zips an early 1-0 advantage.
Pitt continued to apply high pressure on the Akron backline, but many of its attacks were squandered by offsides violations. The Panthers were called offsides nine times in the first half, and generated just five total shots.
While the Panthers possessed the ball better as the half went on, Akron continued to get into passing lanes and prevent the Panthers from stringing together many threatening attacks. Despite a couple of decent looks at goal late in the half, Pitt headed into the break with very little control over any aspect of the match and a 1-0 deficit.
Pitt clearly entered the second half on a more assertive and precise track offensively. After generating several shots early in the half, the Panthers leveled the score in the 59th minute.
Sophomore midfielder Filip Mirkovic made a sharp turn on the sideline and crossed the ball across the box. Junior fullback Raphaël Crivello made his way to the back post to receive the pass and headed the ball across the goal to put the Panthers on the board.
That was the first score of the French transfer’s career with Pitt. He joined the team just this year and played four scoreless games before getting on the board.
Even after the equalizer, the Panthers did not waver in their high pressure and pursuit of the goal. But their attacking mindset left them susceptible to the counterattack, and in the 76th minute, Akron struck back. Redshirt senior forward Diogo Pacheco controlled a cross and hammered the ball into the bottom corner to put the Zips back on top, 2-1.
Despite generating 15 total shots and seven corner kicks in the match, the Panther offense could not truly find its feet. While Pitt continued to play long balls in an attempt to get behind the Akron backline, its attempts at an equalizing goal were futile, and they ultimately fell to the Zips by a final score of 2-1.
The Panthers were caught offside 11 total times in the match, as the Akron backline maintained its shape despite the pressure it faced from Pitt’s attack. Despite a visible willingness to play with an attacking mindset, the Panthers are yet to find their stride through four matches.
Pitt sat atop the national rankings for a while. It hasn’t been ranked lower than fifth in the United Soccer Coaches top 25 since March 16. But a 1-2 record this week threatens to drop the Panthers further down the pecking order than they’re familiar with.
The loss drops Pitt’s record to 2-2 on the season, and the Panthers will now look ahead to the start of conference play Friday night, when they will face current No. 6 North Carolina in a marquee ACC matchup at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
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