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AKRON -- DeAndre Yedlin, a standout on the World Cup stage, was playing at the other FirstEnergy Stadium just a season ago.

Ever since bringing home the 2010 National Championship, the University of Akron has built a soccer powerhouse.

If you're idea of futbol is more like football, understand this: "What Alabama is to college football, we're that to college soccer," said University of Akron Men's Soccer Assistant Coach Oliver Slauson.

"Everyday you have to fight for your spot on the field," said Reinaldo Brenes, who came from Costa Rica to play four seasons with the Zips.

Yedlin played against Portugal Sunday, even scoring an assist on the goal that put the Team USA ahead.

He joined the Zips in the fall of 2011, and stayed until he was drafted by the Seattle Sounders. He was named a finalist for Rookie of the Year in 2013.

In seven years, the Zips have drafted 23 players to Major League Soccer. Yedlin becomes the first man to play in the World Cup.

"Akron's part of who he is," said Slauson, "He's got the one asset really that you can't coach. He's got unbelievable pace. And that frightens the life out of defenders at any level from youth soccer all the way up to as you're seeing on the national team. And the way he's a part of the goal that gave the U.S. the lead on Sunday night."

His former teammates are coaching youth summer camps on campus and watching Yedlin in awe.

"I knew he was going to get really far in his soccer career, but I didn't know it was going to be that fast," said Brenes.

"I wouldn't have guessed that he would already be playing in the World Cup. That's kind of crazy it happened that fast but it's awesome," said Andrew Souders, a rising junior for the Zips.

"It's a great advertisement, obviously for the program, but it's nothing short of what DeAndre deserves," said Slauson.

Akron's Head Coach Jared Embick traveled to Brazil for the excitement.

"It was a kind of like a proud father moment, you know," he told WKYC's Sara Shookman by phone Wednesday.

"Hopefully this being a World Cup year, people fall in love with soccer again and want to come watch a good college program play the game the right way," said Embick.

He says Yedlin's rise validates what that Akron's program is working. And as Major League Soccer continues its spread across America, he thinks the college game will continue to get more attention.

Yedlin's teammates expect great things from him, hoping he'll get back on the field Thursday.

"DeAndre doesn't really get that nervous. I feel like he just took it as it came and dealt with it well," said Sounders. "I've talked to him a little bit and seems like he's really having a great time there. Just loving the experience."

Yedlin tweeted from his verified account @yedlinny Monday: "The support from this country is amazing. Hearing USA being chanted around the whole stadium is something that will stick with me for life."

Embick tweeted to him in response, "keep up it Dre!!! Zipsnation is behind you!!!"

Yedlin responded, "Thanks Jared! Miss you all!"

Team USA takes on Germany Thursday at noon. If USA wins or ties, they'll surely move on the next round.

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