On Senior Night in Ann Arbor, the No. 19 Michigan men’s soccer team took on Detroit Mercy in its last non-conference regular season matchup of the year.
The Wolverines (5-1-1 Big Ten, 10-4-2 overall) looked to gain momentum heading into the late stages of Big Ten play against the Titans (6-6-3), who have only one win away from home. They fought hard Wednesday night and earned a 1-0 victory on a game-winning goal by junior forward Francis Atuahene.
“It’s exciting. I’m very excited,” Atuahene said. “But to be honest, we wanted to do it for the seniors, for the team, and for the program. To be honest, all we wanted to do was just win.”
Despite their eventual victory, the game did not begin the way the Wolverines had envisioned. Just a minute into the match, a Titans’ corner caused panic inside the box, resulting in a shot for Detroit Mercy that sailed just over the crossbar. But Michigan worked its way back into the game and dominated the rest of the half.
The Wolverines’ constant pressure made it difficult for the Titans to get out of their own half of the field. But Michigan registered just two shots in the first 25 minutes, both of which were sent wide by the Wolverines’ forwards.
Michigan ended the half with six shots but was unsuccessful in converting on its chances. The Wolverines headed to the locker room tied, 0-0, with the Titans.
At the beginning of the second half, Detroit Mercy orchestrated a well-placed cross from the right side of the Michigan 18-yard box that was taken on the half-volley from Titans’ forward Aleks Vushaj, forcing a save from freshman goalie Henry Mashburn. But that would be the last chance of the night for Detroit Mercy. Defensively, the Titans proved impenetrable for Michigan.
But that would change in a flash.
With 17 minutes left in the game, junior defender Marcelo Borges’ shot was saved by Detroit Mercy goalkeeper Josh Flamme, but it fell right into the path of Atuahene, whose shot cannoned into the net to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
“Everybody’s fighting in training,” said senior defender Billy Stevens. “Everybody is fighting for each other and everybody’s got that same mentality in the back. Just fight until the game is over.”
Toward the end of the game, Detroit Mercy pushed players forward, but Michigan was able to hold off the attack, allowing only one shot on goal for the entire game.
This Sunday, the Wolverines have a chance to win the Big Ten regular season title in a battle against No. 12 Maryland.
“They’re on a three-game losing streak, and we’re obviously coming in hot,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, we just have to keep competing and the results will happen.”
Added Michigan coach Chaka Daley: “It’s what we set out to do in the beginning of the year. … We have an opportunity to play for the first Big Ten regular season championship for men’s soccer on Sunday.”
After a dismal 2016 season — including only one conference win — Michigan has the opportunity to redeem itself and make history for the program.
It’s all in front of the Wolverines. They just have to take it.