Michigan defense impresses despite loss
Sometimes, one mistake can overshadow an otherwise impressive performance. That was the case for the Michigan men’s soccer team on Sunday night, as they played a sound defensive game against No. 13 Washington.
The Wolverines’ only slip up came in the 51st minute of play, when a defensive breakdown led to Washington’s Kasey French receiving a pass in the right side of the box. He put a perfectly placed shot in the top of the net, past the outstretched arms of senior goalkeeper Andrew Verdi, to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. Though Michigan went on to lose, this was just the second — and final — shot on goal the Huskies got.
“Two good teams going at it. We didn’t make many mistakes,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “Defensively we made one mistake and they scored… At the end of the day, a team that’s rolling like that, they had one shot on goal. The keeper had to make one save. I don’t even remember the save.”
Throughout the first half, the Wolverines struggled to get anything going on offense. They were constantly playing in their own end, but the defenders continued to stand their ground. Washington only put one shot on goal in the first half, which resulted in an easy save for Verdi.
Senior defender Abdou Samake, a standout performer on the day, consistently denied the Huskies’ attempts to get balls to the center, clearing the danger.
In the second half, Michigan limited Washington’s opportunities by keeping possession and took pressure off of the defenders with some halftime adjustments.
“We stayed up higher on them so they had to play big. We kind of made it a little bit of a scrap and we came out with the balls and tried to play a little bit more,” Daley said. “No real chances for them.”
Even though the Wolverines were playing less in their own end, their shots were still not finding the back of the net. Despite this, their defense did not budge, keeping possessions short for the Huskies and keeping the game within reach. One standout play occurred in the 78th minute, when a Washington shot off of a free kick deep in Michigan territory flew towards the net. Junior defender Joel Harrison was barely able to get his foot on the ball and deflect it out of bounds, saving a goal.
“The competitive nature in the group is fantastic,” Daley said. “I can’t fault our group for their effort. I can’t fault our group for commitment.”
A defensive performance like this one was an encouraging sign for Michigan. Despite only giving up one goal in their last two matches prior to Sunday, they gave up four goals the last time they faced a ranked opponent. The Wolverines are a relatively young team, but all four defensive starters are juniors or seniors and counted on as leaders of the team. With the beginning of the Big Ten season approaching, a stout defense could go a long way in the team's success.