ROCHESTER, Mich. — It was clear that the Michigan men’s soccer team was in enemy territory during its Wednesday night game at Oakland. The game drew a crowd of more than 800 spectators, and students gathered on the hill adjacent to the field. Others chose to observe from a bird’s-eye view, perched atop the neighboring parking garage, while young fans rallied the crowd in a “Let’s go Oakland” chant near the goal line.
They came expecting a Grizzlies win.
Most would make the assumption that the Wolverines would come out on top, especially after they won their 150th game in program history against Northwestern, 3-0, earlier in the week. Michigan holds a 9-1-4 overall record against the Grizzlies, but recent history indicates that visiting their campus is no easy task.
During their past three visits to Rochester, the Wolverines have not been able to pull away early, resulting in the nail-biter finishes Oakland fans have come to expect.
With all three previous meetings at Oakland Stadium extending into an overtime period, games between the two teams have been anything but boring in recent years. The record between the in-state foes on Grizzly turf remains 1-1-1, and the fans, enjoying success against the state’s flagship university, remember.
The crowd arrived for a show, but it was one the Wolverines weren’t aware of. Michigan arrived as it does for any other game, unaware of past records.
“(We) don’t know anything about the past,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “The past is gone.”
Michigan took the field with this mindset, prepared to earn a win regardless of prior results.
The Wolverines were the first to hit twine. Freshman midfielder Ivo Cerda knocked in a header near-post off a short cross just over 15 minutes into the match.
However, the Grizzlies retaliated quickly, capitalizing on a penalty kick opportunity. The back-and-forth scoring kept the many spectators enthralled, giving the Grizzly fans hope.
But first to the ball at the start of the second half, the Wolverines began to capitalize on their shots and took advantage of the obvious aggression between the two teams. It was clear that they had stepped up their intensity.
The viewers remained absorbed in the match well into the second half, not because it was the even game they came to watch, but because of the numerous scoring chances the Wolverines created. With 21 shots on goal, Michigan kept the bystanders on their toes, never knowing when they could slip a ball into the back of the net.
When the final whistle blew, the Wolverines had capped an impressive 4-1 win.
“If we can live up to the standard the team has set, and we can live up to that standard every single game … we’ll get what we deserve out of every single game,” Daley said. “That’s what we did tonight, and we got what we deserved.”
And while the fans came to watch a close back-and-forth game, for the Wolverines, it was just another chance to live up to the high standard they have set for themselves.