The attacking end of the Michigan men’s soccer team has been far more productive than in 2014, and that showed in Tuesday’s match against Duquesne.
The Wolverines defeated the Dukes, 3-0, after scoring all of their goals within the first 46 minutes of the game and bearing down defensively to limit Duquesne’s own second-half chances.
Michigan’s recent offensive success hasn’t been lost on senior forward Colin McAtee, who contributed two scores.
“We’re feeling pretty good about our offense this year,” McAtee said. “Especially compared to last year, where I don’t know if we even scored much more than we have now.”
Michigan is averaging 1.83 goals per game this season, compared to 1.11 for all of last year.
Despite being tied for first in the Big Ten, the win over Duquesne was the first for the Wolverines (5-3-3) in the month of October. Michigan opened up the month with tie games against Wisconsin and No. 7 Notre Dame, and most recently suffered an overtime loss to Rutgers.
“It’s not like we’ve been playing poorly or we have to change anything drastically,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “A lot of teams come to Michigan and give us their best game. So we have to ultimately be prepared for that, and have to ride the highs with the lows. I think our guys did a good job responding tonight.”
The Wolverines have been without senior captain James Murphy due to injury for a month, and freshmen defenseman Marcello Borges is currently playing in an under-20 league in Germany. Even with a somewhat-depleted roster, Michigan stopped Duquesne from ever getting into the contest.
The Dukes took just seven shots compared to the Wolverines’ 15, and sophomore goalkeeper Evan Louro only had to make one save to be perfect on the night.
Daley has stamped into his team the belief that good defense at all positions will give Michigan chances to win. Indeed, the first goal of the night came in the 27th minutes as McAtee contested Duquesne goalkeeper Sam Frymier as a high-deflected ball came down inside the 12-yard box.
As the ball fell toward the pitch, both players slipped. Frymier fell forward, leaving McAtee with the ball and a wide open net. He was able to scramble to his feet and launch a scoring shot before the defenders closed in to give Michigan a lead to build on.
“It was great to look up to see the ball in front of me and the goal wide open,” McAtee said. “It’s not the prettiest goal, but I’ll take that any day. That’s probably the easiest goal I’ve had.”
Just 10 minutes later, the Wolverines doubled their score in a more standard fashion. Freshman forward Francis Atuahene was able to speed past his defender to receive a through ball from sophomore midfielder Tyler Anderson on the backside of the play and net a wide open shot just below the crossbar center goal.
In the first half, the Dukes repeatedly tried to draw Michigan on the attack and send the ball deep in order to create offensive chances. They managed to get off five shots in the first half, some of which soared barely outside the crossbars, but much of the game was spent with the Wolverines controlling the ball on offense.
Ten seconds into the second half, chances of a Duquesne comeback were further dashed by McAtee. On the echo of the whistle, the Wolverine front line of McAtee, redshirt sophomore midfielder Michael Kapitula and freshman midfielder Robbie Mertz started sprinting toward the goal line.
Three successful passes later, McAtee was lined up for an open shot inside the 18-yard box on the left for his second goal of the night.
Staring in the face of a 3-0 deficit, Duquesne rarely threatened again. It did get its only shot on goal, which Louro saved, one of only two shots by the Dukes in the second half.
“We were definitely very motivated (after the loss to Rutgers),” McAtee said. “And to score early, I think that really helped boost our confidence and control the rest of the game.”