A Renewed Rivalry: Akron City FC and Cleveland SC clash in the Battle for I-77

Writer: Sideline and Beat Reporter, Cade Cracas

Akron, Ohio— Everyone wants to see a high-intensity, playoff-defining rivalry clash between two sides. Fortunately, those in the Northeastern Ohio region won’t have to look far.

On Saturday, June 22, Akron City FC (ACFC) and Cleveland SC (CSC) will collide in a highly anticipated matchup. As the 2024 season approaches its tail-end, each game is going to matter for playoff implications with both teams fighting for second in the Great Lakes standings.

Heading into the outing, both teams sit at an overall record of 4-0-2 on the season.

“This game is huge. I think at the end of the day, regardless of if it’s Cleveland, we have to win out,” ACFC Head Coach Andy Hoggarth said. “Now the goal is: can we keep winning and host a home game in the playoffs?”

The sixth all-time meeting between ACFC and CSC occurred just a few weeks ago on Saturday, May 18. While ACFC may have lost, 1-0, the game was in the hands of them for the majority of the 90 minutes of action.

“We had to take our chances,” Hoggarth said after the game. “They had one really good chance and scored from it.  We had about six, seven, eight, nine good chances and not took one. We can’t not take our opportunities.”

After the loss to Cleveland in the season opener, ACFC Owner Nick Turchan fully believes the team will respond well this time around.

“Expectations are to win as always, take the positives from the Cleveland game, such as all the good chances we created, and execute a bit better,” Turchan said. “I believe the team will respond well.

“They know they let one get away and have a lot of pride to not let that happen again.”

Since the opening loss to CSC, the team has recorded four wins and just one loss, which came in a 2-1 nail-biter to first-place Steel City FC.

With the team truly turning this season around after the opening hiccup, they are poised to continue their hot streak.

Back on Saturday, June 15, ACFC forward Sam Sarver exploded in a five-goal game to help lead the team to a 6-2 win over Flower City Union (FCU). Sarver’s elite-level scoring puts his goal count on seven in the last two games and nine on the season in total.

“Obviously if we win that game [against Cleveland SC] it would be a dream scenario for us come the playoffs,” Sarver said. “They got us the first time, but it was before we had our set lineup, our strengthened lineup.

“I think we have come a long way as a team and we are picking up speed at the perfect time.”

The matchup between CSC and ACFC will be the seventh installment of the rivalry, with the team up north taking four wins and the other two games resulting in draws.

Last season, ACFC took on Cleveland SC two times. The first clash between the pair came on June 9, at Green Street Stadium. With the home crowd rallying behind them, ACFC was able to secure one point in a 0-0 draw, shocking the Midwest Great Lakes conference favorite.

In the second meeting between both sides, the outing went the way of Cleveland SC, 4-3, in a slugfest. With the win, Cleveland SC took the season series.

Saturday’s game will give ACFC a chance at finding the club’s first-ever win against CSC.

“I don’t think enough people in the town realize what they have in their backyard,” Turchan said. “Akron City FC and Cleveland SC both provide high-level play and are competing for playoffs.

“I don’t know where else you’d rather be next Saturday night.”

The stage is set for a thrilling outing from Green Street Stadium on the campus of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Kickoff between the pair is set for 7:00 P.M. EST.

“Nowhere else can you see this level of soccer in your backyard at extremely affordable prices,” Turchan said.

Tickets can be found at the link below: