Coming off back-to-back losses, the Michigan men’s soccer team sought to redeem itself and build momentum heading into the final stretch of games before the postseason.
On Friday evening, the Wolverines (4-7-3 overall, 1-4-1 Big Ten) defeated Bradley (3-7-3), 3-0, on the back of an improved offensive performance.
“The difference was we just found the target,” Michigan coach Chaka Daley said. “A lot of the times we were playing, I think we were so uptight and high-strung that… we missed chances.”
Three minutes into the game, a shot on goal by junior midfielder Quinn Rodgers set the tone and applied early pressure on the Braves’ defense. By midway through the first half of the game, the offense — led by freshman midfielder Nicholas Cassidy — controlled possession, constantly creating good looks.
“(Cassidy’s) really dangerous,” Daley said. “He’s an excellent one vs. one player, he’s powerful.”
With less than a minute remaining in the half, Cassidy swerved past two defenders and rifled a shot towards the left post. His shot went through the outstretched gloves of Bradley goalkeeper Nick Burke and hit the back of the net, giving Michigan a one-goal lead.
The Wolverines’ energy only intensified after their first goal.
At the 47th minute, a header by senior defender Brennan Callow — on a free kick from junior midfielder Bryce Blevins — hit the bottom left corner of the net, giving Michigan complete control of the game.
For Daley, the formula for a dominant performance was straightforward.
“One, hitting the target to force them to defend,” Daley said. “Then continuing to run in behind and stretch the team and wear them.”
The Wolverines continued to create chances, generating four shots on goal in the second half. A shot on the bottom right by Blevins, followed by back-to-back headers by freshman midfielder Nicholas Kaloukian, prevented the Braves from gaining momentum and limited them to only one shot in the second half.
After scoring his first career goal earlier in the game, Cassidy soon found another opportunity to score. However, his attempt at the insurance goal was prevented by a foul at the 18-yard box, giving Michigan a penalty kick. The kick, taken by Kaloukian, found the back of the net to all but clinch the Wolverines’ fourth win, 3-0.
Despite its performance against Bradley, Michigan has struggled to play a complete game against its Big Ten opponents. As conference play continues, the Wolverines expect the win to revive their confidence.
“I think we’re capable against any opponent,” Daley said. “Although our record doesn’t reflect that, but I know the group is capable.”
But while the stagnant Michigan offense appears to be finding its rhythm, whether it can translate it against stronger competition remains unknown.