Two minutes is rarely enough time to determine the better team in a soccer match. Sometimes, though, it’s enough to impact the result.
Unfortunately for the Michigan men’s soccer team (1-0-1 Big Ten, 5-1-1 overall), Friday night was one of those times, as it drew Penn State 1-1.
Just 130 seconds into the game, it fell a goal behind when the Nittany Lions’ Christian Sload collected a pass near the penalty spot, turned and fired past the Wolverines’ sophomore goalkeeper Henry Mashburn.
“It did catch us off guard but that shouldn’t be happening,” Mashburn said.
Added Michigan coach Chaka Daley: “Those mistakes and that focus in the first couple of minutes might have been the difference in getting three points or one point.”
The Wolverines, though, quickly settled into the game, dominating the rest of regulation.
Just two minutes after the goal, sophomore forward Jack Hallahan put Michigan on the front foot by taking the ball in midfield and beating a few defenders on his way into the Penn State box, although his eventual cross inched too close to goalkeeper Josh Levine.
Though it didn’t lead to anything, that burst of energy was foreshadowing of things to come for the Wolverines.
Over the next 65 minutes, Hallahan was the their best player, penetrating the Nittany Lions’ defense from the right wing all night.
“I’m smart enough to know that when someone’s playing well, let’s make sure to get it to him,” Daley said.
“One day it’s Umar (Farouk Osman), the next day it’s (Hallahan), one day it’s (Mohammed) Zakyi.”
On Friday, it was Hallahan. And finally, after spending the evening whipping in crosses that couldn’t find a man or shots that just missed the target, he was the one who broke through for Michigan in the 70th minute.
He cut onto his left foot and put a dangerous cross into the penalty box, where it deflected off a Penn State defender and into the net.
“We put them under a ton of pressure and I think at some point, something’s gotta give,” Daley said. “And I thought we just continued to press and press and put stuff in on tip of the goalkeeper and something had to give and we found one. We’ll take it any way we get it.”
Four minutes earlier, though, came the biggest of a string of missed chances for the Wolverines that could have turned into goals.
Hallahan was at the center of Michigan’s attack again, as he broke down the right wing before cutting a pass back to senior forward Noah Kleedtke, whose shot was kick-saved by Levine from close range.
When asked if any missed chances stood out to him, Hallahan pinpointed that play.
“Noah Kleedtke’s where I’ve gone down the line and cut it back and their keeper’s got a foot on it,” Hallahan said. “It’s just margins at that point.”
Ultimately, that inability to convert chances doomed the Wolverines. With 12 minutes left in regulation, senior defender Marcello Borges found senior midfielder Ivo Cerda six yards out but Cerda couldn’t put it on target.
That ended up being Michigan’s last major chance as Penn State rebounded in a balanced overtime period, and for all their dominance, Daley and the Wolverines had to settle for a draw.
“We’re disappointed because that (opening goal) was maybe the difference for us,” Daley said. “… But fortunately, we got one point. And at the end of the day, that’s important.”