A undermanned St. John’s soccer team held No. 4 Akron to draw in Queens.
On a rainy Saturday night, the St. John’s soccer team hosted No. 4 Akron at Belson Stadium in its Big East home opener after the Zips were added to the conference in the offseason to balance out the league into two 6-team divisions.
Saturday was just the fifth all-time meeting between the two programs with the last matchup coming back in 2013 when St. John’s pulled off a Top-5 upset with a 2-1 win.
St. John’s played well for most of the first 20 minutes of the game holding Akron to no shots and making it very difficult for the Zips to get anything going offensively, but, in the 26th minute, St. John’s would go down to 10 men as Markus Pusztahegyi was shown a red card for a crunching tackle.
Despite being a man down, two minutes later St. John’s would take the lead through Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau. The Johnnies would win the ball high up the field and eventually a low cross found the feet of Chateau and the junior would fire the shot into the lower left corner of the net to send the Red Storm into an improbable lead.
The goal was Chateau’s sixth of the season and extends his lead as the Red Storm’s top goalscorer in 2023 despite not starting a single game this season.
The assist was Nibogora’s first point as a member of the Red Storm.
St. John’s would take the lead into the halftime break but as soon as the second half started the task of holding onto the lead became tougher.
More troubling awaiting St. John’s soccer
Just three minutes into the second half, St. John’s would go down to nine men as senior defender Justin Kopay would be ejected. Akron would capitalize on the numerical advantage and put the Johnnies’ defense under siege for the rest of the second half, firing off 16 of its 18 shots in the second 45-minute period.
Alec McLachlan was fantastic in the St. John’s net, saving some outstanding scoring opportunities shots by the Zips, especially in the second half.
However, as valiant as the undermanned Red Storm fought to hold on to the lead and get a massive Top-5 win, Akron would breakthrough the St. John’s defense as midfielder Rui Reis fired home a rebound from a deflected shot into the net to tie the game in the 82nd minute.
While losing the lead right near the end of the game will sting for St. John’s, it is impressive that they played most of the game down one man — along with nearly an entire half down two men — and still came away with a result against Top-5 opposition which has yet to lose a game this season.
St. John’s now sits at 4-3-2 (0-1-1, Big East) and will hit the road to Milwaukee to take on Marquette next Friday as the Johnnies look for its first win in three games.