With the game still scoreless in the 12th minute, junior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty’s arm extended to get a glove on the ball. The shot came flying off the head of Duke midfielder Conor Kelly toward the bottom right corner. Appalled that it was saved, Kelly’s head dropped into his hands. The stalemate would continue.
After the early save from Finnerty, attacking chances came few and far between for both Michigan and Duke. Both sides turned away from playing possession and resorted to sending long balls into the opposing team’s back line.
The stalemate didn’t end until the 57th minute, when a well-placed header allowed the Blue Devils to leave Ann Arbor with a 1-0 win.
The physicality of the game played a factor in the struggle to keep possession. Duke racked up nine fouls in the first half while Michigan had four.
A Duke foul in the 16th minute led to a free kick for Michigan on the right wing of the 18-yard box. Sophomore midfielder Bryce Blevins curled the ball right into the arms of Blue Devil goalkeeper Eliot Hamill.
The Wolverines made their first substitutions in the 29th minute, bringing on junior forwards Uriel Zeitz and Christian Pulselli. Michigan made a plethora of substitutions, especially in their attack.
“We certainly need to find the right rhythm or match of players. We think we found a good match in there, centrally, with Bryce (Blevins), Marc (Ybarra) and Quin (Rogers),” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said when asked about the substitutions among the attacking unit. “But who’s going to sub in for those guys if they’re a little bit off, I think it’s important.”
Sophomore midfielder Quin Rogers earned the praise Daley provided. With two minutes left in the first half, Rogers executed a flawless tackle, sliding in from behind, yet making sure not to foul. After winning the ball, he played it up the right wing to create one last chance for Michigan before the half came to a close.
Despite Rogers’s efforts, though, the Wolverines couldn’t find the back of the net and entered the break in a 0-0 draw.
After the intermission, an intense aerial battle ensued. The ball floated up and down the pitch with no real threat to either goal. However, this suddenly changed in the 57th minute. Duke midfielder Ruben Mesalles used his head to send the ball into the net after Kelly whipped in a cross.
While the physicality was intense before the go-ahead goal, it reached new heights after. Junior midfielder Inaki Rodriguez received the first yellow card of the game for the Wolverines in the 70th minute. Additionally, freshman forward Michael Leon was given a yellow card in the 87th minute. Duke finished the game with two yellow cards as well.
In the 83rd and 84th minutes, Michigan won a free kick and two corners in rapid succession. With the sudden spark in what had been a lifeless offense, the already lively stadium’s energy increased in an instant.
Michigan couldn’t capitalize on their pair of corners or on their free kick. However, its best chance of the game came mere minutes later when a ball was played into the Duke box by graduate student forward Umar Farouk Osman. Leon managed to launch himself above the Duke defenders to get his head on the ball. It flew towards the goal, barely rising above the crossbar for a Duke goal kick.
“Desperation,” Daley said when asked what caused the attack to spring to life late in the game. “You have to play that way though. … Good attacking teams play, you know, with a little bit of fire and desperation.”