Goals and wins have been hard to come by this year for the Michigan men’s soccer team. The Wolverines find themselves in second to last place in the conference standings, mired by a lack of consistent offensive production.
That wasn’t the case Friday night. Michigan dominated Bradley, outshooting the Braves by 18 en route to a 3-0 victory — its first in four games and nearly a calendar month of action.
“We did what we needed to do,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said. “I thought that was really positive for us.”
Adding to the positivity, the Wolverines were led offensively by two freshmen — forwards Nicholas Cassiday and Nick Kaloukian — who both scored in the match, along with senior defender Brennan Callow.
That kind of youth-driven contribution gives the program hope in the midst of a frustrating rebuilding season.
Michigan’s season total of 14 goals is good for dead last in the Big Ten. No individual Wolverine appears in the conference’s top 35 for cumulative points.
But when the 18-year-old Cassiday buries a laser near post for his first collegiate goal, following a devastating cutback to his left foot just outside the box, Michigan might be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As the 19-year-old Kaloukian scores a penalty kick for his second in as many games, the silver lining comes into focus.
“(Cassiday) has got a really bright future. He’s really dangerous,” Daley said. “Excellent one v. one … and powerful. He’s got a lot of great qualities and we’re excited to watch him grow with us.”
Daley had similar praise for Kaloukian, who he personally chose to take the PK. Kaloukian ranks top three in the conference for both shots and shots on goal and is also tied for the team lead in scoring.
“Nick is into the goals now a little bit,” Daley said. “He’s going back to (his home state) Jersey next week … hopefully he can score a hat trick.”
But Cassiday and Kaloukian aren’t the only underclassmen that Daley is encouraged by. In a prospective mood, he enthusiastically rattled off a list of all seven freshmen who infused the roster this season, along with a handful of sophomores.
Headlining that sophomore class is goalkeeper Hayden Evans, a former Big-Ten all freshman team honoree who is the current runner-up for conference shutout leader — despite not playing in two games this season.
“We’re a really youthful group of guys … going through growing pains,” Daley said. “But certainly for the future we’re hopeful that they’ll continue to grow the right way … and get better and better.”
As prospects become starters — as current freshmen and sophomores grow and mature — expect the team to improve significantly. There is certainly nowhere to go but up.