Sometimes a game plan just isn’t working.
That was the case for the Michigan men’s soccer team Monday night against Detroit Mercy. Despite dominating possession, it struggled to create scoring opportunities in the first half. But due to some simple second half adjustments, it still emerged victorious.
Early, the Titans appeared to be in control. They looked confident on defense and the Wolverines couldn’t get anything going.
After mustering just two shots on goal in the first half, Michigan clearly needed to make changes at halftime.
In order to overcome their struggles the Wolverines needed to find a way to move the ball into the offensive third without allowing the defense to settle into position.
“We didn’t occupy them high enough up the field,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said. “Our midfield players didn’t play high enough … we received the balls too deep.”
The Wolverines were too slow, building up from far too deep throughout the first half.
The Detroit Mercy defenders had time to rally and suffocated every attack. Michigan’s new objective was to create more space for the offense to work.
“Going into the second half we saw some issues,” junior midfielder Quin Rogers said. “They were preventing us going forward so we made some adjustments. … (We) Stretched the field a little higher so it would give a little more space for us.”
Coming out of halftime, the Wolverines began making the necessary adjustments and subsequently found more success. They pushed farther up the field with increased ferocity and regularity. The forwards and midfielders played higher up, opening up the midfield, allowing them to mount attacks from further up the pitch.
Michigan was finally able to make some plays. The midfield pushed up closer to the goal and started receiving the ball from the back line with the space to make swift attacks before the Titans could swarm in.
“We just tried to advance our midfield players a little bit higher and they executed,” Daley said. “Our guys responded really well (to the Detroit Mercy goal) … we felt good about the results and finding ways to score some goals.”
Rogers and Junior midfielder Bryce Blevins carried out the stretched formation and as a result, Blevins scored the equalizing goal.
And less than two minutes later, when a similar attack played out Detroit Mercy was forced into some overly aggressive defending, leading to Rogers earning the eventual game-winning penalty kick.
That space and positioning that Daley alluded to is what allowed the Wolverines to finally get the ball up the field into the net. It forced the Titans to play more aggressively and that caused them to make a mistake.
Sometimes the two halves of one game can look like two separate affairs. On Monday against Detroit Mercy, Michigan’s adjustments made it look a whole lot better in the final 45 minutes.