Wild, wild football. There was no order in the game. There were no beautiful goal-scoring sequences. There was just swinging legs, knees, shoulders, hips. Clean contact on the ball was something you only saw when the ball was stationary.
That describes nearly every opportunity that came for the Michigan men’s soccer team in the second half and beyond Tuesday night against Michigan State, including senior forward Noah Kleedtke’s game-tying goal in the 78th minute. The cross came in from sophomore defender Austin Swiech, past Spartan goalkeeper Jimmy Hague’s outstretched arms, bounced on the ground, then off a defender and right into the path of Kleedtke’s knee.
The goal was an important equalizer for the Wolverines (9-4-2 overall, 3-2-2 Big Ten), as the game ended in a 1-1 draw. Michigan State (10-2-4, 4-1-2) had scored in the 52nd minute with a half-volley from Jack Beck that went just past the reach of a screened Michigan sophomore goalkeeper Henry Mashburn.
The draw means Michigan is currently the fifth seed in the Big Ten Tournament, one point behind Maryland and Wisconsin. The top four seeds host a quarterfinal match. There is still hope, though, for the Wolverines’ chances to host the quarterfinal match: they play the Terrapins Sunday in the regular season finale.
“Our guys would love to play another home game in front of our fans, in front of our families, in front of our local crowd,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We’ll certainly be looking to push the game. We won’t go in looking to tie, we’re obviously looking to see if we can win the next one.”
However, Michigan’s form recently has been subpar. In the last five games, the Wolverines are 1-3-1, their lone win against Detroit Mercy. Tuesday, while they showed fight, they also showed an inability to finish. Nine shots on goal and nine corners led to only one goal.
Kleedtke’s goal was the standout, in fact. Time and time again for Michigan the ball would enter the box, and the shot would go wide, straight to the goalkeeper, or the kick would just miss the ball entirely. If the Wolverines could have finished those chances, they could have won the game cleanly.
“We had many chances in and around the six,” Daley said. “We were stunned on the sideline that we couldn’t get a touch or a foot on the ball to steal the game completely.”
Instead it was an entertaining, chaotic game. A game of two halves and two styles.
The first half was organized, patient, precise. Especially for Michigan.
“We not just dominated out wide, but dominated the game in many stretches, especially in the first half,” Daley said.
The second half, not so much. The Spartans got their goal early, and as the game went on the Wolverines got more and more desperate, leading to chaotic football where no one knew what was going to happen next, especially after Michigan’s equalizer.
The first overtime was just a continuation of the second half. Chance after chance for either team. If you blinked, you missed it. The second overtime, though, was a lazy 10 minutes with little excitement or chances — they were tired.
Still, Daley and Michigan stayed upbeat reflecting on the draw.
“I mean from our perspective, we’re pleased with the performance, disappointed with the result,” Daley said. “I think we’re a little bit unfortunate not to get more out of the game tonight, but on the road in the Big Ten, you always take point. You put points on the board and keep fighting.”