Ohio State midfielder Xavier Green’s shot deflected wide right, and the Michigan men’s soccer team’s defense breathed a sigh of relief in the 88th minute. But the threat was far from over.
Midfielder Anthony Samways floated in a ball from the corner, which midfielder Laurence Wooton met with his head. Wooton, uncontested in the air, promptly redirected the ball past freshman goalkeeper Hayden Evans to win the game for the Buckeyes, 2-1.
“It’s not a situation where Wooton did anything clever,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “He just (jumped) higher than the next guy and that’s how goals happen.”
Earlier in the match, Ohio State forward Channing Chasten dribbled down the right wing and drew the attention of three Michigan defenders. However, Green waited for a pass just inside the box. Once again unmarked, he drilled a low shot into the bottom left corner. It was another instance of the Wolverine defense falling asleep, as they struggled to contain the Buckeyes’ attack on Tuesday night.
“Goals typically come from mistakes,” Daley said. “A mistake happened. He got lucky, played a ball through and then as you’re supposed to do he just kicked it low to the feet and the keeper was screened and it went in the goal.”
Coming into the match, Michigan allowed just over 10 shots per game by their opponents. On Tuesday night, they allowed 15 to a Buckeyes team that averaged 11 coming in. A lack of pressing by the Wolverines helped the Buckeyes’ offense, the worst in the Big Ten, generate chances and put Michigan on the back foot. The Wolverines seemed to struggle with a lack of cohesion and focus on defense throughout the game.
“Our identity is still forming because we’ve been injured quite a bit,” Daley said. “We’re still trying to figure things out even with all the injuries.
“They had good energy, they were fighting for their life. If they lost tonight their season’s over. They needed to get a result tonight, they needed to win or tie to keep their season alive. They played with great desperation and good energy and I thought we did as well for some periods of the game and the game was neck-and-neck.”
Ohio State’s uptick in performance came at the right time, as their victory keeps them alive for a spot in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. Michigan will likely have home-field advantage in the conference tournament, but it will need to improve their defense to have a chance of winning.
“These games come down to moments,” Daley said. “There’s no team in the league that can walk away from any other team. The reality is it’s gonna be tight, they had a little bit of home team advantage, they had a decent crowd and kept their energy going and it ended up being the difference in the game.”