The Michigan men’s soccer team (6-5-3 overall, 3-2-1 Big Ten) tied with Akron (7-3-3, 1-1-1) on Monday night at zero. The Wolverines weren’t able to capitalize on several good chances, but they were able to escape with a point thanks in large part to quality saves by junior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty.
This match was Michigan’s third of the season in which they were held scoreless. The Wolverines had 11 shots throughout the game, with three of them being on goal. The Zips totalled 12 shots, with two of them on goal. Neither team was able to produce meaningful scoring opportunities, which contributed to the game’s ultimate outcome.
During the first 45 minutes of play, the Wolverines attempted four shots, but none were on goal, with three of them being redirected by defenders. Akron had their first serious chance to notch a goal in the 26th minute, but a diving save by Finnerty kept things even heading into the second half.
“For the first save, I saw the center and knew he was free,” Finnerty said. “I set my feet early and was able to push off to make the save to my right when he headed the ball back across the goal”
The Zips’ pressure seemed to confound Michigan during the first period of play. The Wolverines found themselves on the back foot often, and their defense was forced to make plays.
“Akron high pressed us really well and that definitely made it difficult,” Finnerty said. “They also had some individual talent up front so we had to make sure we were always focused.”
The momentum switched to favor Michigan early in the second half. It had multiple chances to find the back of the net, but was unable to capitalize. Junior midfielder Uriel Zeitz rifled a low shot towards the right post in the 51st minute, which was followed in short order with another chance by freshman midfielder Michael Leon. Both came up empty.
Even though Akron was only able to get one shot on goal during this period, its pressure never let up. The frenzied pace continued until a breakthrough in the 86th minute, when Wolverine sophomore midfielder Bryce Blevins found an opening in the Zips’ backfield. His shot was just wide left, bouncing off the crossbar and the deadlock continued into the end of regulation.
“(Before overtime), coach (Chaka) Daley told us to play our game and play at our tempo.” Finnerty said. “He also told us to keep putting in work because our energy was super positive throughout the game.”
The Wolverines headed into overtime with renewed energy. Michigan’s first true chance in overtime came in the 96th minute with a shot towards the bottom center of the net by junior midfielder Inaki Rodriguez, but his attempt was thwarted by Akron’s goalkeeper. There were no quality chances for either side during the rest of this overtime and the next one as well.
This was the Wolverines’ second shutout in as many games, as well as the second of the season. The defensive unit seems to be finding its rhythm as the team looks to its last few matches of Big Ten play.
“We pride ourselves in our defense, (and) we have been able to show that in our recent games,” Finnerty said.
But concerns linger on the offensive front, Michigan needs to address its shot generation. The Wolverines have averaged 4.5 shots on goal throughout the season, but they have stalled recently. Against Wisconsin and Akron, the team only tallied four shots on goal total.
Michigan needs to generate more quality scoring chances on offense if it wants to compete against its opponents in its final two contests. Otherwise the results will be similar to Monday night – or worse.