Michigan survives second half collapse to beat in-state rivals
As the ball was played out from a crowded midfield to Jack Hallahan on the wing, a collective fervor resonated throughout the stadium. Spectators stood up in anticipation. All eyes were glued on the movements of the junior forward. After cutting back and getting the ball onto his right foot, Hallahan whipped a cross into the box. And there to meet it was senior midfielder Ivo Cerda, who sent the perfectly placed ball into the net.
“Thank god it went in,” Cerda said. “After that it was just madness.”
The goal clinched a 3-2 overtime win for the Wolverines (3-1-0) over in-state rival Western Michigan (1-4). The pandemonium that ensued within the Michigan Soccer Stadium, as both the Michigan players and the student section stormed the field, can be summed as Cerda said — madness.
“We don’t win that game without the fans,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “At the end of the day, you don’t find a way to win those games if you don’t have the tremendous support of the Michigan Ultras, the Michigan student body and our local community.”
A game which ended up being highly contested in the end was far from it in the first half. The Wolverines dominated, both offensively and defensively.
Sophomore forward Umar Farouk Osman caused all sorts of problems for the Bronco defense, using his speed to his advantage down the wings. Within 14 minutes, Osman was already on the scoresheet.
Michigan missed several opportunities in the first half to extend its lead though. Osman and fellow Ghanan native, sophomore striker Mohammed Zakyi, combined multiple times in the first half to no avail, as their final few touches let them down.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, the defense led by senior Daniel Mukuna and sophomore Jackson Ragen kept things tight at the back despite Western Michigan continually lofting balls into the box. Ragen even capitalized on a set piece to double Michigan's lead early in the second half.
But as the game grew more chippy, the pace and quality of the Wolverines’ play seemed to subside substantially. The Broncos clawed their way back into the game as a result. The breakthrough came in the 72nd minute as a ball was played in behind the Michigan defense and slotted past charging sophomore goalkeeper Henry Mashburn.
With the momentum clearly having shifted, the Broncos scored again within 10 minutes to tie the game at 2-2.
“They just put the ball up and it’s tough when you face 50 balls inside the box,” Cerda said. “It’s not easy. Our back four did very well but some dip in concentration and focus let in the first goal and after that went in they had the momentum. They say 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer.”
What looked like a comfortable outing for the Wolverines was no longer that. And yet, a second yellow card administered to Western Michigan defender Ben Thornton in the dying embers of regulation gave Michigan a bit of confidence entering the overtime period.
That confidence was evident as the Wolverines once again asserted themselves. Their precise passing moves from the first half were again on display, and it wasn’t long before they paid off. After a whirlwind of a game, Michigan fans went home happy.
“These things happen,” Daley said. “It’s college soccer. From our perspective we played well for 75 minutes and had a little lull, but after that, everything was good. We rallied the troops in overtime and they took care of business. Certainly from our perspective, finding a way to win is more important than dropping the game.”