EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Despite junior defender Michael Wetungu's first career goal, No. 8 Michigan State men's soccer was topped by Akron, 2-1, Tuesday night in a nonconference match at DeMartin Stadium.
The Spartans rallied from an early 1-0 deficit, leveling the match early in the second half, but the visiting Zips score the game winner in the 82nd minute.
"I think we had a huge outcome on Friday night at Maryland and had to fly back. That was a difficult game. Look, I think we've got to give our guys credit from that. The ball just didn't bounce our way. When it was 1-1 the second half, we had the next five chances, made the keeper save the ball," MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. "I thought our guys were the aggressive team. Akron countered us pretty well, but I thought we controlled large spells of the game and created a majority of the chances, until the end maybe got a little tired. But again, that Friday night and the travel and stuff kind of, maybe showed its effect and Akron nibbling at the end."
MSU is now 9-2-2 overall after the loss, while Akron improves to 5-4-2. The pair of perennial powers Spartans and Zips are regional rivals and have battled tough of late, as Tuesday's 2-1 score was the sixth-straight one-goal match in the series in East Lansing, and the 12th match determined by a goal or a draw in the last 15 meetings overall.
Akron out-shot MSU, 12-10, with Spartan senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague making two saves in the match, including a spectacular diving finger-tip save to his right.
The visiting Zips got on the board first, taking advantage of an MSU foul just outside the box at the arc with a free kick and Skye Harter snuck it through the Spartan wall and into the net.
Michigan State ramped up its offensive attack from there on, applying pressure to the Akron backline, as senior forward Ryan Sierakowski had a bending shot that bounced off the post in the 12th minute. Sierakowski had another chance in the 20th minute with another great look, but his shot was turned away by a diving save by Akron goalkeeper Ben Lundt.
Despite the pressure, MSU was unable to find the back of the net in the remaining time of the first half, which ended with the Zips leading 1-0, but the Spartans had a 4-3 shots advantage. Michigan State trailed at halftime for just the second time this season, as MSU was down 1-0 at intermission at Yale on Sept. 14.
The Spartans continued the pressing attack in the opening minutes of the second stanza and it paid off in the 54th minute when MSU took advantage of a free kick of its own. Junior forward Giuseppe Barone took the kick from the right wing and fired a ball into the box that senior forward DeJuan Jones tapped toward the goal and Wetungu flicked it home for his first career goal.
The next few minutes was back-and-forth, end-to-end action, until the 82nd minute when Akron's David Egbo had a close-range flick and into the net for a 2-1 Zips' lead.
MSU quickly countered, but a diving header from Jones in the 83rd minute sailed just wide left of goal, and the Spartans were unable to net the equalizer in the final minutes.
Michigan State resumes Big Ten action, heading to Columbus, Ohio to take on Ohio State on Friday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. The Spartans return to DeMartin Stadium on Friday, Oct. 19, taking on Northwestern at 7 p.m., on Senior Night for MSU. Michigan State then hosts Michigan in the Battle for the Big Bear on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. in the home finale, before wrapping up regular-season action at Indiana on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m.
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