After receiving the ball from sophomore midfielder Quin Rogers, senior forward Kevin Buca slipped past his defender with the ball on his foot inside Chicago State’s box. With a swift kick, Buca promptly placed the ball into the back of the net to open the scoring for the Wolverines.
After being shut out in two of its last three games, Michigan (3-2-1 overall) scored twice Monday night in Ann Arbor, beating Chicago State (2-3-1 overall), 2-1, in a game where the Wolverines could have blown out the Cougars.
Michigan came out of the gate strong, maintaining possession and creating chances immediately. In the seventh minute, Buca weaved his way past a Chicago State defender in the box and played the ball mere feet in front of the goalline. Three of Buca’s teammates were in the vicinity, but none of them could get a foot on the ball.
“It’s important to have the belief that we’re going to win things,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said. “I think our guys are moving in that direction. We’re frustrated by, maybe, lack of goals, potentially, but we’re grinding and no one’s playing us off the park.”
Finishing wasn’t a strength for the Wolverines, who ended the game with 14 shots — six of which landed on goal — but only managed to put two in the back of the net.
Still, Michigan outclassed the Cougars in almost every facet of the game in the first half. The Wolverines didn’t force the ball forward, instead showing patience and finding gaps in the defense to methodically exploit. One such chance came in the 18th minute when Buca played a through ball to junior forward Uriel Zeitz who sprinted past Chicago State’s back line to get to the ball, only to put it wide left.
The Michigan defense played well in the first half, smothering the Cougars’ attack. When the Wolverines did lose possession, they pressed hard in order to gain it right back. In the 28th minute, Rogers executed a slide tackle in the middle third to win possession back mere seconds after losing it. Chicago State couldn’t muster a single shot in the first half against the staunch Michigan defense.
To start the second half, the Wolverines came out with the same intensity they displayed in the first. In the 49th minute, Michigan struck again. After a shot from senior forward Derick Broche took a deflection, it bounced out to senior defender Declan Gaffney. Gaffney took aim from just outside the box and fired a shot into the top-right corner of the net for the Wolverines’ second goal of the game.
After Gaffney’s goal, Michigan’s finishing woes continued in the second half. Broche blew a shot over the crossbar from distance in the 53rd minute. When he put his next shot on target — a header from near the penalty line in the 55th minute — Cougar goalkeeper Joe Bowles saved it. Another missed opportunity came in the 71st minute when senior midfielder Cameron Martin was through on goal. Martin attempted to chip the ball over Bowles, but the shot bounced off the crossbar.
The Wolverines’ defense also experienced difficulties in the second half. With just 36 seconds left in the game, Cougars midfielder Enrique Zamora ended up with the ball in Michigan’s penalty area after a mental lapse from the Wolverines’ back line. Zamora tapped the ball around junior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty for the Cougar’s only goal of the game.
“We obviously tried to see the game out a little bit differently. They were being a little bit more direct,” Daley said. “A little disappointed we didn’t get a clean sheet tonight, because we deserved it based on the balance of play. Again, we had one more than them, and honestly, if we have one more than them the rest of the season I’ll be a happy guy.”