Soccer: MAC Tournament scouting report

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Mid-American Conference Tournament

Teams: No. 1 seed Akron (15-1-2, 7-0-0), No. 2 seed Northern Illinois (6-9-3, 4-2-1), No. 3 seed West Virginia (9-5-2, 4-2-1) and No. 4 seed Bowling Green (8-8-3, 3-3-1).

Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Akron.

Schedule: Today’s semifinals — NIU vs. WVU at 4 p.m. and UA vs. BGSU at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s championship — semifinal winners meet at 4:30 p.m.

Goal scorers to watch: The Zips’ top three goal scorers are junior Reinaldo Brenes (10), senior Scott Caldwell (nine) and junior Eric Stevenson (six). The other three teams’ top scorers are Bowling Green’s Anthony Grant (eight), West Virginia’s Eric Schoenle (six) and Northern Illinois’ Gael Rivera (four).

Notebook: UA, ranked No. 1 in the national coaches poll, is seeking its fifth MAC Tournament title under seventh-year coach Caleb Porter. Since joining the MAC in 1993, UA has won eight tournament titles and a share or outright regular-season title 15 times. Porter guided the Zips to the 2010 NCAA national championship and five tournament appearances overall.

Local connection: Bowling Green sophomore midfielder Danny Baraldi is a Jackson High School graduate. He has six goals and seven assists this season.

MAC honors: For the sixth consecutive season, UA swept the MAC specialty awards with Caldwell being named Player of the Year, freshman Dillon Serna earning the Newcomer of the Year honor along with BGSU junior Anthony Grant and Porter receiving the Coach of the Year. Caldwell is the 10th UA player to earn MAC Player of the Year and follows Darren Mattocks (2011), Darlington Nagbe (2010), Teal Bunbury (2009), Steve Zakuani (2008), Corey Sipos (2007), Sinisa Ubiparipovic (2006) and Ross McKenzie (2005) as the eighth consecutive UA player to receive the award. Serna is the 11th UA player to earn MAC Newcomer and Porter was tabbed as the MAC’s top coach for the sixth consecutive season. Seven UA players were named to the All-MAC first team: Caldwell, Brenes, Serna, Chad Barson, David Meves, Wil Trapp and DeAndre Yedlin. The Zips also placed three on the All-MAC second team: Stevenson, Bryan Gallego and Aodhan Quinn.

Porter on the Zips being ranked No. 1: “It won’t affect us at all. We want to be No. 1 Dec. 9. We’ve been No. 1 before. We’ve been in the top 5 consistently over the last three or four years. It’s nothing really new. These players expect to be one of the best teams in the country. It’s a great credit to the program and these guys, what they’ve done this year. It’s not often an Akron team gets to be No. 1 in the country. I think it’s only happened a couple times, only in men’s soccer. That’s exciting. But rankings and people’s opinions of us don’t affect us negatively or positively. We believe in ourselves and we believe in what we’re capable of doing. It’s more the RPI we’re concerned with. We want to be in that top four, hopefully. If we get a top four [NCAA seed], then we get three home games. That gives us the best possible path to the College Cup. In 2009 and ’10, we had three home games and at home we’re unbeatable. We know if we get home games, it’s going to be tough to beat us. If we have to go on the road, we’ll go on the road. One way or another, we’re going to get to the College Cup.”

— Michael Beaven and Marla Ridenour

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