Bringing the NPSL to the Rubber City took a little longer on Saturday night as a weather delay, caused by thunderstorms and lightning in the area, pushed the kickoff of Akron City FC’s match versus Pittsburgh Hotspurs back almost 90 minutes. However, the weather cleared and kickoff began with a pair of rainbows behind Green Street Stadium on the campus of St. Vincent St. Mary HS, the former home of NBA star Lebron James.
Lorain, Ohio native and University of Akron alum Jaden Wright scored Akron City’s first goal in the seventh minute, putting his name in the history books as the club’s first goalscorer.
Hotspurs forward Bryan Akongo scored in the 30th minute to bring things even at 1-1. Akongo had been threatening the Akron defense for quite some time, using his speed to create space and opportunities.
Akron would answer just four minutes later with a goal from another goal from Wright.
“We were hungry, have been working hard these past few weeks getting ready to come out here and play the first game of the season,” Wright said. “It felt good having a lot of fans out there backing us, and we’re ready for the next game.”
Both Wright and Akongo showed a lot of pace and technical ability, leading the attack for their respective teams.
But it was a red card from Hotspurs keeper Keaton Jennings in the 40th minute that changed the direction of the game, putting the visitors down a man for over 50 minutes. Halftime would come with no change in the score with the home side holding a 2-1 lead.
Pittsburgh played well in the second half, putting plenty of pressure on the Akron backline despite playing with just 10 players. The Hotspurs had plenty of scoring chances but struggled to find the equalizer. Akron would come up with a trio of opportunities in a three-minute span, starting in the 77th minute. Both teams made the most of the final minutes with the teams trading chances, keeping the outcome in question until the final whistle.
Akron City goalkeeper Cam Victor, another UA product, was called upon throughout the game to make plays, and he came up with save after save. The Olmsted Falls, Ohio native finished with over a dozen saves.
“It’s all credit to the boys in front of me,” Victor said. “The defenders and midfield were excellent tonight. Jaden bagged two goals tonight and kept us in the game. We really rely off the fans’ energy, and they brought it tonight so just want to say thank you to them.”
The night was a huge success for the first-year NPSL side, thanks to a great atmosphere, an extremely competitive match, and 1,057 fans and supporters in attendance.
ACFC owner Nick Turchan discussed his club’s first-ever NPSL win.
“What a game,” Turchan said. “The boys played great. We had an early goal to get the momentum going. Shoutout to the fans of Akron, over 1000 fans showed up today, making noise, supporting the guys. Let’s double that next game and then triple it. Cleveland’s our next home game. We go and play on the road in Pittsburgh, come back, and play Cleveland with triple the crowd and really support the boys for the next game.”
Building a team that featured talented local players was something that Turchan had planned for since day one.
“This team was built for this community, the city, the Summit County region,” Turchan added. You know from the beginning we wanted to build this with local guys, whether they’re born here locally or play at one of the local colleges. We’re so grateful to have such a phenomenal program, the University of Akron, right across the street. That’s going to give us an advantage every year.”
Photo Credit: Ric Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com