Before Friday night, Daniel Mukuna doesn’t think he had ever scored two goals in a soccer match — no matter the playing level.
The junior defender found the back of the net just three times last season at Campbell University, as offensive chances were simply scarce for the England native.
But in just his third game as part of the Michigan men’s soccer team, Mukuna scored twice — including the eventual game-winner — to lead the Wolverines to a 3-1 victory over Cleveland State.
“It means a lot to get those goals,” Mukuna said. “It’s a privilege for me to play here, and whenever there’s a chance to get a goal, I definitely want to be who comes up and gets one.
“I believed that these were the coaches that would take me to the next level – that why I transferred here. It’s great to see things come together tonight.”
Michigan coach Chaka Daley pushed Mukuna up the pitch, noting his ability in the air off set pieces. Despite a 1-0 Michigan lead that forced the Vikings to increase their tempo in the attacking third, Daley returned fire with an aggressive approach that led to Mukuna’s first goal in the 55th minute — a buried header off a cross from senior midfielder Tristan Jacob.
Just four minutes later, Mukuna completed his brace with a powerful finish from the right flank as the Wolverines continued to pressure on the offensive end.
“Going in, we talked about getting goals from the back and how beneficial that would be,” Mukuna said. “There definitely was an emphasis on it, and it’s great to see it come to fruition.”
On the defensive half, Mukuna and his fellow starting backs – junior Marcello Borges and sophomore Abduo Samake — held the Vikings to just four shots. Though one of those found the back of the net, the trio consistently frustrated Cleveland State’s attackers with solid positioning and speed to cut off potential chances.
“(Our defenders) have been a great partnership so far,” Mukuna said. “Everybody has been working thoroughly in practice on keeping our discipline and shape and making sure out tactics are right. I’m happy that it’s showing up on the field.”
Mukuna even found himself saving goals, too
When the Vikings opened the field in pursuit of equalizing goals in the 75th minute, Cleveland State forced sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Verdi out of position from an initial chance, creating an open net opportunity off the rebound. But Mukuna — almost 100 meters from where he scored his two goals — blocked the Viking attempt to preserve Michigan’s two-goal lead.
Despite the return of junior Peter Brown, Mukuna has now started over the incumbent defender in all three matches.
“Certainly, he’s a physical presence and has kept himself super fit,” Daley said. “He’s very much a team guy, is technically sound and very dangerous on dead ball situations. He’s been solid to this point.”