The ball bounced to Noah Kleedtke at the top of the box, and the Wolverines had one final chance to tie the game.
The junior midfielder stepped up and fired off a shot, but he missed — badly. The ball sailed high and wide, the whistle blew and the game ended.
The Michigan men’s soccer team (4-2-2) dropped its second straight game on Wednesday, 1-0, in Kalamazoo against No. 12 Western Michigan. The Wolverines went without a shot on goal for the second game in a row, putting an ugly exclamation mark on the loss.
“We didn’t have four regulars playing, so it was a little challenging for our group. But the guys who stepped in, I’m proud of,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “Two 1-0 losses isn’t devastating to our group, our staff, or any of our players.”
Michigan’s first chance of the game came early. Freshman forward Mohammed Zakyi had space down the left wing off a nicely threaded pass. His shot hit the near post, but unfortunately for the Wolverines, that was the closest they came to putting one on goal for the entire game.
It wasn’t necessarily for a lack of effort, though. While Western Michigan mustered more shots, Michigan was on the attack for nearly 10 straight minutes at one point in the first half. The best chance from that stretch came from junior midfielder Robbie Mertz. After a corner kick leaked out to the top of the box, Mertz had the space he needed to get a shot off. He did, but the attempt missed wide.
The Broncos had a sustained attack of their own afterwards, with just as little success. Senior midfielder Brandon Bye was the catalyst, taking a threatening volley inside the box in the 34th minute. Michigan managed to block it, but that wasn’t the end of the attack. Senior forward Jay McIntosh had Western Michigan’s best chance of the half just a few minutes later — a header, which sailed wide, after an undefended Bronco cross.
Five minutes into the second half, the dam broke. Junior midfielder Kosti Moni scored with a header after a Western Michigan throw-in. His goal was all the Broncos needed.
Western Michigan came closer to a second goal than the Wolverines ever did to a first. In the game’s 50th minute, the Broncos forced a save out of Verdi, who punched away a threatening cross. Five minutes later, Connor McNulty’s header flew just high off a corner kick.
It took a while longer before Michigan started to attack more aggressively. The Wolverines didn’t get their first shot of the second half until the 70th minute. That was from Zakyi as well, who found himself in space after the ball came free in Western Michigan’s box. At that point, a familiar refrain kicked in for Michigan: his shot went wide.
“(Western Michigan) was very direct, drove it over the top so there’s no buildup play, and it was hard to get a rhythm,” Daley said. “That made it very difficult for us (to attack).”
Though the Wolverines spent most of the remainder of the game attacking, they never forced a save out of Bronco fifth-year senior goalkeeper Drew Shepherd. In the match’s last 15 minutes, the Wolverines managed three shots.
Two of them, one by sophomore midfielder Jack Hallahan, the other by Mertz, were blocked by Broncos’ defenders. The third was Kleedtke’s, which felt like a Hail Mary in more ways than one.