It was Sept. 6, the second game of the Michigan men’s soccer season against Niagara, and the crowd was tense. Entering overtime, the score was tied at one.
Stepping toward a rebounded ball in the 99th minute, senior midfielder James Murphy buried the ball in the back of the net. The Wolverine faithful erupted in celebration, only to be silenced by the blow of the referee’s offside whistle. The game went to double overtime.
Just two minutes into the second period, a foul on top of the 18-yard box led to a perfectly placed set-piece opportunity. Murphy, as he did a few minutes prior, found twine with a powerful header to capture a sudden victory.
The following game against Maryland, Murphy went down with a torn medial collateral ligament. He has not seen the field since.
Making his return seven weeks later against in-state rival Western Michigan on Tuesday evening, Murphy entered the game with four minutes remaining in the first half, and played a large chunk of the second half and overtime period in the Wolverines’ scoreless double-overtime tie.
“It’s been really tough, obviously, my senior year, and to sit out most of the season,” Murphy said. “It’s great to get back in it and just do whatever I can do to help this team out and help to finish the season strong.”
Though he had the chance to take a medical redshirt this season, Murphy declined, instead opting to join his teammates for the final and most crucial part of the campaign.
Murphy has made an impact on the Michigan squad ever since he crossed the pond from England and stepped on the field his freshman year, earning a spot on the 2012 Big Ten All-Freshman team.
“Whatever he’s got to give this team, he wants to offer it,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “He’s a selfless young man.”
Three years later, Murphy has a captain band wrapped around his arm, and he plays as selflessly on the pitch as he behaves off of it.
After playing for just three short stints in his comeback game, Murphy’s goal is to play and enjoy every minute he gets on and off of the field with his teammates.
“This team means a lot to me, and I want to give everything I’ve got to help these boys out,” Murphy said. “And hopefully we’ll win something this year.”
And with two important Big Ten games in their future, the Wolverines still have a shot to do just that. To the excitement of both Daley and Murphy, he will be back and ready to make an impact — as he has in the past with 37 career goals.
“He gives everything for the team and he’s all about the team first,” Daley said.
And Murphy hopes to give what he has, whether there are two games left in the season or 10. Every game after Nov. 4 could be his last.
“We’ve missed him,” Daley said. “Big time.”