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Wolverines bounce back from season-opening loss, bully SMU

James Coller/Daily
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By Minh Doan, Daily Sports Writer
Published August 31, 2014

After the Michigan men’s soccer team’s season opener Friday, the mood was somber and quiet. The players cooled down alone, quietly reflecting about the disappointing game they had just lost.

On Sunday, the mood surrounding the postgame routine was a little bit different.

“Everyone was devastated about Friday, not only in the loss but how we played,” said senior midfielder Marcos Ugarte. “(On Sunday), the intensity was higher from everyone.”

Unlike their game 48 hours before, the Wolverines came out with much more passion and energy, and they walked away from the U-M Soccer Stadium with a 3-0 victory over Southern Methodist (0-2).

This time, the 4-3-3 formation that coach Chaka Daley implemented at the beginning of the season to become more offensive did exactly what it was supposed to: score goals.

And it didn’t very take long, either.

After just five minutes of play, freshman forward Ahinga Selemani collected the ball just inside the 18-yard box before heel flicking a pass into open space right outside of the six-yard box. It was there that Ugarte collected the delivery and curled a left-footed shot past the Mustangs goalkeeper to put Michigan (1-1) up by one.

But it was the second goal that showed how dangerous the 4-3-3 can be.

Junior forward James Murphy, playing in his new role in the midfield, dribbled into the center of the pitch before dishing a through ball to an overlapping Ugarte. With an extra player in the attacking third due to the formation, Ugarte was able to find wide-open redshirt junior Colin McAtee, who powered a header past sprawling SMU goalkeeper Michael Nelson.

“With three forwards, you always want to have good wide play,” Daley said, “and you want guys crashing the box. We want to see if we can get a numerical advantage and be tidy and composed enough to put the ball away.”

McAtee added one more goal in the 75th minute by beating two defenders outside the Mustang penalty box and slotting the ball into the near corner.

But despite everything rolling on offense, freshman goalkeeper Evan Louro and his aggressiveness couldn’t be outshone.

In his collegiate debut, Louro made just three stops, but each was more spectacular than the previous.

Louro’s last save came in the 44th minute when Mustang Colten Habecker made his way behind the defense via a through ball. The moment Habecker crossed the 18-yard line, Louro charged out and sprawled to the pitch to smother the ball — all the while avoiding clipping the attacker and conceding a penalty.

While there were many positives to the game, the Wolverines struggled in the first half with defensive positioning, but a halftime talk with Daley pulled the defense back together for a solid finish.

“(The defenders) are still getting used to playing with each other,” Daley said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to know who is playing what role, and we sorted that out at halftime.”

But at the end of the day, the Wolverines’ defense held, the 4-4-3 showed promise, and Michigan accomplished exactly what it sought.