AKRON, Ohio - Eduardo Lopez Perez scored the golden goal in the 102nd minute of double overtime to send Santa Clara men's soccer past Akron, 2-1, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on a cold, windy, Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.
On the play, Oladayo Thomas got off a strong shot to force a diving save by Akron goalkeeper Will Meyer. Lopez Perez pounced on the rebound to tally his fourth goal in six games this season to put the Broncos through to the second round.
Santa Clara (12-1-4) will next face Kentucky in Lexington on Sunday at 4 p.m.
The Broncos made most of their chances finding the back of the net on two of only three shots they had in the game to complete the comeback victory.
Trailing 1-0 at intermission, Santa Clara applied pressure effectively at the start of the second half to create an Akron turnover in the attacking half. A one-touch pass from Thomas played Javier Ruiz Duran in on the left who had another first-time hit to cross it to the far post setting Kirunda up with a sliding finish.
Kirunda's equalizer came in the 47th minute to flip the script on a strong first half by Akron (9-6-3).
In the opening 45, Akron utilized crisp short passes to maintain possession against the Bronco defensive pressure and minimized the attacking chances to outshoot Santa Clara, 8-0, and a 5-0 advantage in corner kicks.
Akron struck first in the 26th minute on a set piece. Moments earlier, Tobias Bak's shot was kick saved by Broncos goalkeeper Ruben Stuiver resulting in a corner kick opportunity for the Zips.
Jonas Buechte floated the corner kick to the far post that a well-marked Carlo Ritaccio rose above the Bronco defender to get his head on to give the Zips a 1-0 advantage.
For the game, Akron outshot Santa Clara 17-3 but all three Broncos shots were on target compared to four for the Zips.
Stuiver had three saves compared to one for Meyer where he saved Thomas' shot at the end before Lopez Perez's game winner.
• Santa Clara is now 2-1 all-time against Akron.
• The Broncos improved its record in the NCAA Tournament to 26-17-6, including 9-4-6 in overtime matches.
• The Broncos are 2-0-4 in overtime matches this season.
• Javier Ruiz Duran has tallied a point in six-straight games that he has appeared in.
�������������� ���� ������ ������������ ����������!— Santa Clara Men's Soccer (@SCUBroncoSoccer) November 19, 2021
▶️ Eduardo Lopez Perez knocks in the rebound off the Oladayo Thomas attempt to down Akron 2-1 in the 2nd OT of the @NCAAsoccer Tourney first-round matchup. #StampedeTogether pic.twitter.com/Q4bFMJA9n9
�� Head coach Cam Rast's post game thoughts after the 2-1 double OT win over Akron in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. pic.twitter.com/8zI4QFmRcN— Santa Clara Men's Soccer (@SCUBroncoSoccer) November 19, 2021
HIGHLIGHTS from #SCUBroncos 2-1 comeback win over Akron in double OT in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.— Santa Clara Men's Soccer (@SCUBroncoSoccer) November 19, 2021
⚽️ 47' Kirunda (Thomas & Ruiz Duran)
⚽️ 102' Lopez Perez (Thomas) x 2⃣ camera angles. #StampedeTogether pic.twitter.com/5OyTEBUcTf
The Broncos head to Lexington, Kentucky to face the University of Kentucky on Sunday in the second round. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. PT.