Michigan pulls out ugly victory over Detroit Mercy
As the minutes ticked further and further down in Wednesday night’s match, the Michigan men’s soccer team’s intensity was gradually building. After being knotted at zero with Detroit Mercy after nearly 75 minutes of action, the Wolverines were in desperate need of a big play to restore order on the pitch.
That play came with 16 minutes to go in the second half, as sophomore forward Derick Broche connected on a cross from freshman midfielder Harry Pithers to give Michigan (6-2-3 overall, 2-0-2 Big Ten) the lone goal en route to a 1-0 win over the Titans (3-7-1 overall, 0-2-1 Horizon League).
Players exchanged chest bumps, and Broche was mobbed by his teammates in the corner of the field. For the Wolverines, who had struggled mightily throughout most of the match, Broche’s diving header came with an overwhelming sense of relief.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Broche said. “They’re a drop back team, and to finally get that breakthrough, it gave us all the life back in the game. So, yeah, it was amazing for the team.”
Michigan entered the game expecting to cruise to an easy victory, but its lackadaisical approach in the early going played right into the hands of the scrappy Titans.
Throughout the game, Detroit Mercy gained a competitive edge by exerting its physicality and getting under the skin of the Wolverines. While Michigan dominated possession, the Titans managed to keep things close with their chippy play and stingy defense. They certainly succeeded in getting reactions out of the Wolverines as well, drawing 13 fouls including a yellow card from junior midfielder Carlos Tellez.
In the early goings Michigan wasn’t matching Detroit Mercy’s intensity according to senior goalkeeper Andrew Verdi. He quickly became so fed up with the effort of the team that his exasperated voice could be heard throughout the stadium.
“I saw that a lot of people maybe weren’t giving the energy in the game that they typically bring,” Verdi said. “So I was trying to lift that up. I think sometimes you’re gonna have to get on your teammates and try to get the best out of them. I’ll do as I expect somebody to do to me if I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to.”
While Verdi may have been disappointed with the effort at some points, the win did give him his fourth straight clean-sheet.
“It feels great,” Verdi said. “Four straight shutouts is something that’s pretty rare. I think me and the defense take great pride in that. It’s a reflection on the whole team.”
Michigan managed to keep its shut-out streak alive without two key starters, junior defender Joel Harrison and junior forward Umar Farouk Osman. Coach Chaka Daley decided to rest both ahead of Sunday’s match against No.4 Indiana — though Harrison was forced to sub in for the final ten minutes due to an injury to senior defender Abdou Samake. In their stead, Pithers and fellow freshmen Carter Payne and Christian Pulselli saw a sharp increase in their playing time.
“A lot of new faces in this kind of local derby type atmosphere or game, and I thought they stood up well and fought hard,” Daley said. “And we got a positive result.”