Sunday’s game between the No. 18 Michigan men’s soccer team and No. 6 Michigan State was perhaps the most significant match in the rivalry’s history.
For the first time ever, both teams were ranked in the top 25, and the Wolverines were coming off a draw against No. 1 Indiana in Bloomington. While it looked like Michigan might be able to pull off the upset, the Wolverines fell short with a 1-0 overtime loss to the Spartans.
Michigan State controlled possession for most of the game, but Michigan’s defense stood its ground. Ultimately, the Wolverines’ lackluster attack allowed the Spartans to control momentum for much of the game.
Throughout the first half, Michigan defense was able to keep the Michigan State strikers out of position and make them fight for every shot. The match was locked in a scoreless draw at halftime, yet Michigan State had the upper hand due to its ability to control the ball.
Michigan started to show some signs of aggression 13 minutes into the first half, but it was unable to capitalize around the Spartan net. To counter Michigan State’s forceful attack, the Wolverines we able to effectively slow the tempo and gain momentum using their style of play.
The second half of play was much more evenly matched, as both Michigan and Michigan State went back and forth between shots and possession. Both teams had multiple open looks on goal, trading blows like two great boxers.
The Wolverines came out of halftime with a different mentality, as they moved the ball with purpose and added grit to their play. Michigan was able to gain momentum with more time on the ball, forcing the Michigan State defenders to retreat back into coverage.
Increased aggression from both sides caused both team to amass penalties. Senior defender Billy Stevens received a red card in the 74th minute, which brought out a huge altercation between the two teams. A few minutes later, Michigan State defender Brad Centala drew a yellow card.
After a full 90 minutes, the match was still scoreless, and the two in-state rivals went head-to-head in an overtime period. The 10-minute overtime period was controlled by the Spartans, as they pushed the ball forward deep into Wolverine territory.
With just 31 seconds left on the clock in overtime, Michigan State forward DeJuan Jones nailed a shot into the lower right part of the goal to give the Spartans the victory.
“It’s college soccer,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We’ll get healthy and learn from our mistakes.”
Daley believes that his team learned a lot from being down three key players and that his team will mature and grow from this tough battle. In addition to Stevens’ absence, junior defenders Marcello Borges and Daniel Mukuna also suffered injuries in the game. According to Daley, it was an opportunity for his team to adapt to adverse circumstances.
“They say weak teams will be broken, mediocre teams will survive it, and great teams will get better as a result of it,” Daley said.