Quin Rogers found himself in a surprising situation.
The junior midfielder was caught in a battle with a Detroit Mercy defender in the 75th minute and, to his shock, was awarded a game-deciding penalty kick after falling.
After a lackluster start to the game, everything changed for Rogers and the Michigan men’s soccer team in the span of six minutes. Less than two minutes after assisting on the Wolverines’ first goal of the night, Rogers was awarded a penalty kick. After collecting himself, Rogers had only one thought in mind: score.
He buried the ball in the back of the net for what ended up being the winning goal, giving Michigan (2-3-1) a 2-1 win over Detroit Mercy (1-3-1) on Monday night.
The first half was characteristic of the Wolverines’ play throughout the season thus far. Michigan controlled the ball for the majority of the time but consistently fell short of generating any offensive production.
Although the Wolverines held the ball for 61 percent of the first half, they only managed two shots on goal, compared to the Titans’ four shots on goal. Michigan controlled the pace of play, but it couldn’t penetrate Detroit Mercy’s physical defense into the attacking third.
Freshman forward Nicholas Kaloukian and senior forward Evan Rasmussen each took two shots in the first half, but neither had pressure in front of the goal and inside the box. They failed to finish each of their chances, ending a slow-building half at a scoreless tie.
“We saw some issues with the way we were building up through the game,” Rogers said. “How they were playing, (they were) preventing us to go forward. We made some adjustments where the midfielders and forwards stretch the field a little higher. We would give a little more space for us in the middle of the field to where we can pick them apart and go out a lot easier.”
These adjustments didn’t work immediately coming out of the half. In the 68th minute, Titans forward Samory Powder broke the deadlock when he launched a ball into the net. Michigan came out of the half strongly, but the goal seemed to dampen the mood.
“We carried the chances and it was almost heart-wrenching,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said.
The heart-wrench would only last six minutes. Those six minutes would come to define the game for the Wolverines.
Coming off the bench, junior midfielder Bryce Blevins looked to give Michigan a much-needed spark. Controlling the ball at the top of the box in the 74th minute, Kaloukian and Rogers gave two swift passes to Blevins before he launched the ball into the top left of the goal.
“My initial thoughts were ‘Ok we need to get it going. We’ve been here before,’ ” Rogers said. “In front of the goal I got it at the top of the box, pick my head up and I saw my teammate, and he put it away. I had 100 percent trust he was going to put it away. Immediately after I could tell the atmosphere in the stadium change.”
The equalizer brought relief to the Wolverines, who struggled to turn ball dominance into goals. Offensive chemistry and unforced errors passing the ball plagued Michigan in previous games this season. Beyond Monday’s game, this goal could serve as an inflection point, encapsulating the Wolverines’ improvements to their offensive chemistry.
“Bryce scoring that great goal gives us a ton of belief in him,” Daley said. “(For) our forwards to get moving and get going a little bit because they can make a difference in our team.”
Less than two minutes later, Rogers found himself entangled with Detroit Mercy defenders. With the game now tied, the physical nature of the game increased, and Rogers capitalized.
Rogers drew contact from several Titans defenders and was eventually knocked to the ground. Even in an aggressive game, this call was unexpected, leading to Rogers’ surprise upon being awarded a penalty kick. Surprise aside, he was evidently focused on putting the game away. Rogers faked right and struck the ball to the left, duping out the Titans’ goalkeeper.
“When I saw the PK was called, I knew right away I’m stepping up and I’m putting it away,” Rogers said. “I had zero doubt in my mind I was putting it in the back of the net.”
Two goals within two minutes gave the Wolverines a lead they never relinquished. The scores proved that Michigan could come from behind and gel on offense.
“We have been in that moment before plenty of times,” Rogers said. “I think today it was everything just clicked. We’ve been working with team chemistry a lot lately. Today, I think it really showed how our team really worked together, how we cooperated. How cohesive.”
With a young team heading into Big Ten play, a second-half comeback could prove to be an important building block for the remaining season.