Andrew Verdi is the backbone of the Michigan men’s soccer team, literally and figuratively.

The senior goalkeeper is the team’s last line of defense. Often times, he is the difference between wins and losses.

And on the Wolverines’ Senior Night on Friday, he proved that to be true, making saves in a gritty 1-1 draw against Wisconsin.

After Wisconsin’s lackluster offensive performance in the first half, Verdi was far more busy in the latter 45 minutes of the match. The keeper had two saves, one a punch-out and another while jumping vertically. He allowed a goal during a 77th-minute Wisconsin penalty try. A late regulation skirmish off a corner kick also kept the keeper on his toes.

In extra time against the Badgers, a loose ball created a golden opportunity for Wisconsin to win the game, and upset the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

Verdi had other plans.

A Badgers’ striker faced Verdi with a one-on-one chance, almost a surefire goal under most circumstances. 

Verdi sprawled quickly on all fours and got his entire body in front of the shot. As a result, the ball bounced right back to the Wisconsin striker, whose second shot was then denied by a strong clearance by senior centerback Abdou Samake, keeping Michigan alive. Unfortunately for Verdi and the Wolverines, the keeper was injured during the play.

After the game, Michigan coach Chaka Daley was unsure of the status of his injury.

“No, I don’t have any updates on (Verdi’s) health,” Daley said. “But he was excellent. He saved our butt down here in overtime with a great save and had two other great saves.”

Ultimately, the stalemate formed in regulation was never broken, and the match concluded in a frustrating 1-1 draw after 110 minutes of play. But the draw does not tarnish the value and impact Verdi and the other seniors have had to the team.

“(The seniors) have had an interesting time here,” Daley said. “In their first year, we struggled. They’ve seen a little bit of adversity. They saw some good times in ‘17 and ‘18, and we’re still growing.”

Verdi epitomizes Daley’s description. As a sophomore, he started in 13 games in a successful campaign. His junior year, he didn’t see any playing time, as every start went to keeper Henry Mashburn. Now, in his senior season, the staple between the Wolverines’ posts has started every single match and has been a critical part of the team’s success. His three saves against Wisconsin showcased his importance to the team.

With Michigan approaching the postseason, Verdi’s injury status could be monumental to the Wolverines in their efforts to avenge their Big Ten tournament final loss from 2018. At the moment, Daley is strictly focused on getting Verdi back on the pitch.

“I’m not worried about postseason, to be fair,” he said. “I’m just worried about if Andrew’s OK, first and foremost.”

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