By Cade Cracas/Akron City FC
The battle for I-77 was a fantasy-like outing as Akron City FC and Cleveland SC took on one another at Green Street Stadium on the campus of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School.
Both teams were itching for a win as they looked to regroup their campaigns at the halfway mark of the season, but in the end, it was the high-intensity efforts from both squads that resulted in the contest finishing with two zeros on the scoreboard.
Heading into the contest, the rivalry’s excitement was at an all-time high as the results of the contest determined the momentum heading into the final half of the season. Akron City also looked to rebound from two losses and a draw in the 2021-22 season against Cleveland.
In the first half of play, Akron had small moments where they almost found an early goal. However, Cleveland instilled a bend-don’t-break mentality that overpowered each offensive prowess that Akron threw at them.
Early on the two sides started to utilize physical, aggressive play that results in plenty of early contact between the 330 and 216. The Akron defense consisting of William Jackson, Ryan Kolonick, Adam Lubell, and Steven Samuelson held together like a brick wall, putting immense pressure on the Cleveland attacks.
Even though Akron seemed to have a slight edge early, Cleveland still remained strong within their midfield and did not allow any free or easy shots from Akron.
Heading into the halftime break, Akron gave Cleveland one more attempt at a first-half blow. A shot from Akron’s midfielder Gyuwon Chong went just above the top right corner of the post, giving the Cleveland fans a sigh of relief.
“We have been looking for Chung to find his comfortability,” Akron City FC head coach Andy Hoggarth said. “The past few days in training he has found more space with the ball. We have been really happy with him.”
Hoggarth also expressed the desire to finish and find that opening goal.
“The keeper has made a couple of good saves,” he said. “We need to keep giving our team the opportunity to take shots and take those chances.”
To open the second half, Akron remained with the majority of the possession as they played with the ball nicely in the midfield. The ball movement, led by midfielder Colin Biros and Chong, helped formulate final-third possessions, but the team could never finish them with the ball flying into the back netting.
Continuing with the physicality, the second half saw a high volume of tackles, fouls and yellow cards as the referees attempted to keep the rivalry at a comfortable level of aggression.
Towards the tail end of the contest, an offensive rhythm shifted in Cleveland’s favor. With 12 minutes left, they ramped up their movement of the ball and pressure within the final third which gave them new life to find the go-ahead goal.
Although both teams were looking for three points, unfortunately, neither was able to find a dramatic finishing blow. The heavyweight prize fight between Cleveland and Akron ended in a 0-0 draw.
“I think you take away a battle from the boys here today,” Hoggarth said. “A nil-nil draw was a good performance from the boys here today. When you’ve lost a few in a row you want to start that run.”
The draw resulted in one point going to both teams as Cleveland remains in fourth place in the conference table, while Akron, in their sophomore season, sits in last place.
Akron will remain at home for their next contest against the Erie Commodores on Wednesday, June 14, with Cleveland heading home to take on FC Columbus on Sunday, June 11.
“It is obviously a rest and recovery period,” Hoggarth said. “We’ve got to get some work in and make a couple of changes heading into Wednesday.
Photo Credit: TVCommando Media