The battle for I-77: Akron City FC kicks off the 2024 season against Cleveland SC

Writer: Sideline and Beat Reporter, Cade Cracas

Akron, Ohio- The 2024 season is just days away from beginning for Akron City FC (ACFC), and in the front windshield is Cleveland SC.

Throughout history, Cleveland SC has been able to take down ACFC three times, finding draws against them two times. However, with a brand new roster with a high ceiling of potential, ACFC is looking to rewrite the script and find the club's first-ever win against the rival team up the road.

“The nature of this league is that the first couple games of each season are really hard to predict.  Most teams are coming in with only having their squad together for a couple of practices,” ACFC Owner Nick Turchan said. “With that said, nothing from my perspective changes, our honeymoon is over, and my expectations of the team and the coaching staff is to win every game.

“A win against Cleveland would obviously be a huge start to the season.”

The 2024 season is poised to be one of the most successful seasons in the history of the organization, just years after being established.

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.

“I think it added a bit of extra motivation,” said returning midfielder Nathan Childress. “Playing against a strong opponent always creates a good atmosphere and so I think looking to the future, it is a great opportunity to start off on the front foot.”

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.

“This is a big game right out of the gate, can’t ask for a more exciting way to start the season,” said Turchan. “Last year's match at Baldwin Wallace [4-3 in favor of Cleveland SC] was one of the most entertaining games of the year and I would expect nothing less again this year.”

The club went out in the offseason to build a team that is ready to compete and succeed on the field to combat historical trends. With that, Hoggarth and Turchan have brought in talented youngsters alongside aged veterans.

“I think the entire squad that we’re putting together is continuing to grow the profile [of the club] and take it to the next level,” said ACFC Head Coach Andy Hoggarth. “Overall we have a good group of players who have come through local programs as youth players before continuing into high-quality college environments.”

Now, in 2024, the oldest player on the roster is incoming forward Ben Truax, who brings in a wealth of experience and leadership. Truax totaled 51 goals during his time with Walsh University from 2008-2011.

After his time collegiately came to an end, he took his talents to the semi-professional level. There, he spent time with the Erie Commodores and rival, Cleveland SC.

Alongside Truax’s leadership, forward Sam Sarver from Indiana University will drastically help the team in terms of on-the-field play. With many accolades under his name, the one that stands out the most is “2023 Big Ten Champion” where his energy up top catapulted the Hoosiers to a title.

In his most recent collegiate season, he found eight goals, six assists, contributed to 22 points and recorded 51 shots.  

“We’re expecting high-level technical and tactical quality from them [the new ACFC players],” Hoggarth said. “I know that they will bring a work ethic and desire to be successful in all that they do.”

The club will look to cut down on the amount of goals conceded in previous years while looking to push the pace of play up top to notch up the number of goals scored. 

“I think our expectation as a team is to go out and play for each other,” Childress said. “We have a great opportunity to start the season on a positive note and we are looking to take advantage of that.”

ACFC and Cleveland SC will take on one another on Saturday, May 18, at 7 p.m. from The George Finnie Stadium in Berea, Ohio.

“I urge soccer fans and families in Northeast Ohio to get out to this match, along with the second leg at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School on June 22nd,” Turchan said. “Nowhere else can you see this level of soccer in your backyard at extremely affordable prices.”