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College Close-up: Akron Zips

06/24/2016, 3:00pm EDT

Head Coach Jared Embick discusses the importance of the PDL for the development of Akron's players

Akron University has become a men’s soccer powerhouse in recent years, and many of the talented players who have come through the program have something in common: They played in the PDL.

DeAndre Yedlin and Darlington Nagbe are just two of many Akron alums who have played in the PDL on their path to the professional ranks. Currently, Akron has nine players competing in the league this summer, including Adam Najem, Brad Ruhaak, Goncalo Soares, Niko De Vera, Anthony Macchione, Nathaniel Shultz, Ezana Kahsay, Barth-Luther Mouafo and Shane Wiedt.

Participation in the league is seen as a good stepping stone to the pros by Head Coach Jared Embick, who encourages players to play and test themselves during the summer months.

“There’s nothing like game fitness,” Embick said. “Get our guys games and to continue to grow while their playing, that is what we are looking for. That’s why we have a high number of guys playing in the PDL. We have a lot of confidence in that league and how tough it is to win, and we want to see our guys compete and become better competitors.”

Embick, who was in charge of recruiting for the Zips before taking over as Head Coach of the program after Caleb Porter joined Major League Soccer’s the Portland Timbers, led Akron to the program’s third College Cup appearance since 2009 last season. Only one other men’s soccer program – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – has accomplished the same feat in that time.

Najem, who was a key part of the team’s success in 2015, is returning for his senior season this fall. He currently plays with the Michigan Bucks in the Great Lakes Division of the Central Conference, and has a team-high four assists.

“The quality has gotten better. There’s more support nationwide with teams and how they handle and how they treat the players. It’s really good to see,” Embick said.

“It’s nice when our players can go there in the summer, develop, get better, get a different experience and come back. That’s happened on a few different occasions where it’s benefited us in the fall.”

Adam Najem

10 goals, 11 assists for Akron in 2015.
2013-15 All-MAC First Team honors.
Ranked seventh in third edition of 2016 PDL Top Prospects.
Rising senior.

Brad Ruhaak

Started all 24 games for Akron in 2015.
Two goals for Akron in 2015.
2015 All-MAC First Team honors.
Rising senior.

Goncalo Soares

Started 13 of 19 games played for Akron in 2015.
Two goals, two assists for Akron in 2015.
Rising senior.

Niko De Vera

Started six of 16 appearances for Akron in 2015.
One assist for Akron in 2015.
Rising Junior.

Anthony Macchione

13 appearances for Akron in 2015.
Two goals scored for Akron in 2015.
Rising Junior.

Nathaniel Shultz

Started 20 of 23 games played for Akron in 2015.
Three assists for Akron in 2015.
Rising Junior.

Ezana Kahsay

14 games played for Akron in 2015.
Rising sophomore.

Barth-Luther Mouafo

Did not see game action in 2015 after transferring to Akron from Gardner-Webb University. 
Redshirt junior.

Shane Wiedt

Four appearances for Akron in 2015.
Rising sophomore.

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