Bears' College Cup Run Ends in Fourth Round After Dropping Penalty Kicks to Akron

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After 110 minutes of play, with a score still knotted at 3-3, the Cal men's soccer team went to penalty kicks for the first time all season.

In the net, David Bingham managed to get a hand on the Akron defender Kofi Sarkodie's ball in a diving save attempt.

Unfortunately, it was not enough to keep it from hitting the back of the net to clinch the win for the Zips, 3-2, in the shootout.

The heartbreaking loss in the freezing snow to the No. 3 seed Akron ended the No. 6 seed Bears' season in the fourth round of the NCAA College Cup tournament.

It was the first loss on the road all year for the squad, but in no way did it appear that the players handed over the win to the Zips easily.

Half an hour into the match, Cal (14-2-4) rang in the first goal to put the squad ahead. It was the first time in the season that Akron trailed an opponent inside the confines of Lee R. Jackson Field in Akron, Ohio.

Bingham played a ball to senior forward Davis Paul, who dribbled up the field and dished the ball to junior midfielder Ted Jones. Jones hit a ball on the run over the Zips' outside back to senior midfielder Anthony Avalos, who hit a rocket to the lower corner of the back post.

With about five minutes to go in the half, the Zips were able to take possession away with enough time to generate two decisive chances.

Michael Nanchoff's goal was quickly followed up by another from Scott Caldwell just 28 seconds later to put Akron in the lead, 2-1.

"We just wanted to come out of the half with energy," senior co-captain A.J. Soares said. "We were fitter, stronger and worked harder. If we came out with that mentality, we knew we would get back in the game."

The Bears seemed to put that perspective to action, coming out with noticeable intensity in the second half.

A little over 15 minutes in, senior defender Demitrius Omphroy capitalized on a free kick from Paul with a rocketing shot at keeper David Meves. Meves spilled the ball, creating an opportunity for sophomore midfielder Tony Salciccia to take a successful shot of his own that tied it at 2-2.

The Zips answered and took back the lead with Perry Kitchen's goal about 15 yards out.

Yet, Cal defied the odds with another late-game goal, this one coming at the 88:29 minute mark.

Omphroy juggled a defender and launched a ball deep into the box on the next touch, finding sophomore forward John Fitzpatrick's leg in a collected short-range finish that tied the contest for the third time.

The Bears made their 12th overtime appearance of the year when regulation time expired with no more goals scored.

Both first and second extra periods remained scoreless, however.

"It was back-and-forth play and the snow was really coming down," Paul said of the overtime play. "It was 20 minutes of a battle."

Then came the penalty kicks -- a guessing game with the keeper, according to Paul.

It was Soares who made the first PK for Cal.

"I just take a deep breath, everything goes blank and I walk up and kick it," the defender said of his preparation.

Kitchen, Zarek Valentin and Sarkodie's three successful shots (to Soares' and Avalos' two) made the difference to end the game in the Akron's favor.

"Sometimes it is harder to grasp a loss in PK's," Paul said. "It doesn't always show the better side. We felt like we could have won that game. To be that close and lose is a little harder to digest."

Aside from 2005's quarterfinal appearance, this year marks the deepest postseason run in the Bears' history.

"This loss means that we went out there in a hostile environment and had a realistic 50/50 chance," Soares said. "It was a chance against who some say is the best team in the country. But arguably, we are also the best team too and we proved that tonight."


Kelly Suckow covers men's soccer. Contact her at [email protected]

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