You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 2:01 p.m.

Michigan soccer team looks for redemption against Akron at College Cup

By Pete Cunningham

“Humbling …”

“Embarrassing …”

“A wake-up call …”

Those are just a few of the words Michigan men’s soccer coach Steve Burns and his players use to describe the last time the Wolverines took the field against the University of Akron.

In the almost two months since a 7-1 blowout loss to the Zips, the Wolverines have won nine straight games, outscored their opponents 27-11, and won the school’s first Big Ten tournament championship.

On Friday, they have the ultimate shot at redemption when they face Akron in the semifinal round of the NCAA tournament in Santa Barbara, Calif. (11 p.m., ESPN2)

“They beat the snot out of us, for sure. It was a humbling experience," Michigan coach Steve Burns said. "Really, when you’re faced with humility in life, you have to look at it and make adjustments and either get better, or don’t get better.”

“I think that the leadership of this team did a great job of saying ‘Hey, we do need to look at where we are because we’ve got some offensive talent, we’ve got a team that’s capable of playing at a really high level with some great leadership, so let’s just get about the business of doing that.'”

The Wolverines have done just that, advancing to their first College Cup -- the college soccer equivalent of the Final Four -- with a 3-2 overtime win over No. 2 overall seed Maryland on Saturday.

“We’ve definitely come a long way since playing (Akron) and, for one, our defense has definitely gotten a lot better,” said senior defender Jeff Quijano, who watched from the sidelines on crutches when Michigan suffered its last loss.

“We were definitely exposed that first game when we played them. And, offensively, we just got a trio of Hamoody (Saad), Soony (Saad) and Justin (Meram) that are just clicking. They’re on fire, right now.

“Everyone (has) raised their level since that game, and it’s a totally new team compared to then and now. And I think it’s a team that’s ready to play Akron.”

Soony Saad, a freshman from Dearborn, is second in the nation in total goals (19) and total points (43). Meram, a senior, has scored 11 goals in Michigan's last nine games. He is fifth in the nation in total points (38) and hasn't been held scoreless since that Akron game on Oct. 19.

“The beginning of the season I wasn’t scoring as much, and I think I was trying to force it too much,” Meram said. “Now that they’re coming, I just go into every game like relaxed.”

As the tournament's No. 10 overall seed, Michigan is the only team remaining that wasn’t favored to advance to this point. Akron is the No. 3 overall seed, while No. 1 overall seed Louisville will face No. 4 North Carolina in the other semifinal.

Louisville and North Carolina play at 8:30 p.m. Friday, with the winners of the two games meeting at 4 p.m. Sunday for the national championship.

UMSoccer_Burns.jpg file photo

Michigan junior goalie Chris Blais said that the pressure of the game rests more heavily on Akron, considering the Zips played in last year's national title game, were favored to advance to the College Cup, and so handily beat the Wolverines earlier this season.

“I think we’re going into the game confident, not afraid,” Blais said. “Our team isn’t afraid of anyone, and we’re going to be ready to play Akron Friday night."

The Wolverines have their own mental obstacle to overcome. Now that the Wolverines are California-bound, Burns stressed the importance of refocusing after his team has already exceeded expectations in many ways.

“The focus for our team has been to get to the College Cup, and so I congratulated the guys on getting there," he said. "But I think every one of these guys realizes this may be a once-in-a-career opportunity for them and they want to take advantage of every little moment within the next game.”

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Larry Weisenthal

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 2:04 a.m.

I've never even seen a college soccer game, but I became intrigued by this year's tournament, when into quarterfinals advanced my two college teams (Louisville/undergrad and Michigan/Grad&Professional school - 9 years in AA, where I didn't miss a single home "proper" football game). Anyway, Louisville advanced in the most thrilling soccer game I've ever seen on TV (in this case, internet streaming), overcoming 2-0 and 3-1 UCLA leads to take a 5-4 win in the final minute. And Michigan had a monster upset against Maryland. Well, I'm making the 2hr 15 min drive North to Santa Barbara on Friday for a great double header and maybe, just maybe, one of my teams will be in the final on Sunday. What if both make it? For whom will I root? At this point, I'm not really sure, but I think I may be feeling some of the same emotions Archie Manning feels when the Colts play the Giants. And one of the best things -- no coaching controversy. Go Cards! Go Blue!


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 5:30 p.m.

Nice run by the Wolverines since Akron torched them 7-1. Congrats on making the College Cup. The Zips are healthy (unlike last year when two playmakers were down for the most part for the Cup) and know their mission is not yet complete. Akron's schedule prepares them for these types of games and they've shown over the last few years they come mentally prepared to take care of business. Akron once again takes Michigan and advances to the title game. GO ZIPS!!!


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 11:46 a.m.

I don't look at the pressure aspect, both will feel it at this stage. It will be very hard however, for Akron to not look past this game considering the previous meeting between the two. That score is a major blowout. It's hard to score in soccer, that's why there are so many 0-0, 1-1, 2-1 games. To score 7 usually means one team is very good and the other is very bad. Akron will be hard pressed to not think this will be an easy game for them. I expect a very close game with the team scoring first at a definite advantage.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 1:08 a.m.

"Michigan junior goalie Chris Blais said that the pressure of the game rests more heavily on Akron, considering the Zips played in last year's national title game, were favored to advance to the College Cup, and so handily beat the Wolverines earlier this season." HAHA, that is laughable to think that there is more pressure on Akron. If anything, Michigan has the most pressure due to the fact that they may get embarrassed again, only this time on national tv. The Wolverines are far from ready for this big stage and the Zips are on a mission to bring home a title....3-1 Zips.