As Michigan State fans began their “Go Green, go White” chant, it only took moments for the Michigan Ultras to respond with “Go Blue.” This would not be the only time the Wolverines had to respond to the Spartans Sunday night, as the Michigan men’s soccer team defeated Michigan State, 2-1, in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
The Wolverines (10-4-4 overall, 4-1-3 Big Ten) went down in the first half but dominated the Spartans (3-12-3, 3-4-1) in the second half. Though Michigan was victorious in the end, it had to flip the switch to beat its in-state rival.
Michigan State, still bitter about losing “the Bear” to the Wolverines in regular season play, had a chip on its shoulder as soon as the whistle blew. Michigan didn’t respond well, giving up a soft goal in the 20th minute.
But this was nothing new for the Wolverines, who have scored 10 goals in first halves and 20 in second halves across this season. Halftime has been a time to regroup and make adjustments for Michigan. This game was no exception as the players realized their mistakes and responded well.
The scoreline changed as sophomore forward Derick Broche started the second half and brought a spark to the Wolverine front line. His hunger and drive paid off in the 59th minute, when he scored off a deflection.
“The one thing we discussed at half time was mistakes are going to happen,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We had to keep following things in. That ball came and it deflected. He anticipated that it was going to go through and he took it home.”
After coming off the bench in the second half, Broche acted as an energizer bunny, causing problems for Michigan State both on and off the ball. After his goal, Broche’s role only increased. He wreaked havoc on the Spartans, tiring them out and frustrating their spirits. This all came from a player who has experience watching games on the sidelines and has not been able to affect the scoreline due to injury.
“For me it’s my first year playing after such a big injury,” Broche said. “If you start or you don’t start it doesn’t matter. The mentality is the same. Try to make an impact and try to score goals.”
Though Broche changed the trajectory of the game, it took all 11 players on the field to triumph over Michigan State. The backline tightened up its mistakes, the midfield controlled the flow of the passing and the strikers drew fouls. This brewed a rage within the Spartans leading to a freekick outside the box and a set piece goal by senior forward Jack Hallahan. He, like the rest of his team, had to respond to the deficit.
“Everyone realizes that the energy is down,” Hallahan said. “It’s about bringing each other back up and fixing our little mistakes that have gone wrong. Then everyone comes out buzzing.”
This time it was about finding a way to the tie game and, from there, score the winning goal. After that, Michigan stayed compact and shut down Michigan State. It’s what the Wolverines have done all season.
“It’s just about scoring and then from there can you find a win and grind it out,” Daley said. “When we made it even, it was one way traffic. We had to weather the storm.”