A loud roar exploded from the stands of one side at the U-M Soccer Stadium, overpowering the other side’s sparse, sad groans.
The Michigan men’s soccer team (2-1-1 Big Ten, 5-3-2 overall) took on Oakland on Wednesday and left what little fans who attended as the latter of the two sides.
The Oakland fans’ energy, in a way, paralleled the energy of their players in the Golden Grizzlies’ 2-1 win over the Wolverines, who missed a lot more than just their fans on a chilly Ann Arbor night.
One of the most noticeable things Michigan lacked tonight was expertise. Junior defender Marcello Borges was missing. So was junior forward Francis Atuaheneone — of the Wolverines’ better scorers — because of a red card he obtained in the last match against Northwestern.
“We’re the walking wounded right now,” said Michigan head coach Chaka Daley. “We don’t have a lot of available bodies, we had a suspension and three major players on the bench for our team. I still think we could have maybe gotten more out of the game, but unfortunately didn’t.”
For the first half though, expertise didn’t seem to matter. Freshman midfielder Marc Ybarra continued his strong play when he connected on a free kick from 35 feet out to fellow freshman forward Mohammed Zakyi in the box. Ybarra continued to hit his teammates accurately on set pieces throughout the first half.
In the end, the Wolverines’ inability to score late in the first half hurt their momentum, and so, perhaps, did all of the team’s absences. Golden Grizzlies’ forward Austin Ricci popped in a header in the 49th minute. Fifteen minutes later, the player who assisted him, Nebosja Popovic, skimmed the ball over the Michigan back line for another goal.
“We were excellent in the first half, carried the game in every single capacity, every single way,” Daley said.
Despite making halftime adjustments, Daley lamented how some of the same Wolverines’ problems still came up in the second half.
“We addressed some things at halftime and they still continue to rear their head in the second half,” Daley said. “Our clearances weren’t great, our cover wasn’t necessarily great. I think those are two reasons we conceded in the second half.”
Team captain Ivo Cerda echoed his coach’s sentiment. While the midfielder didn’t play the whole game, he played a large role in anchoring Michigan’s defense in the first half.
He shared his teammates’ and coach’s frustration with the blown lead, which clearly showed when he earned a yellow card in an end-of-game skirmish after an Oakland foul. Just like his coach, Cerda noted the team’s lack of discipline but expressed optimism towards gaining it back.
“Yeah, discipline is a big thing for us, especially with the types of calls we that we got today,” Cerda said. “The good thing about it is that if we can improve on that a lot, we should stay more focused throughout the whole game.”