When it came to generating scoring chances, the Michigan men’s soccer team prefers quality to quantity. That much was clear Sunday as the Wolverines defeated Penn State (1-1-1 Big Ten, 4-2-2, overall), 2-0, despite being outshot, 15-6. Michigan claimed sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with the victory.
“There were only two shots that were dangerous to (sophomore goalkeeper Evan Louro) and both came in the first half,” Daley said. “The quality of shots, and quality of chances is what we live on.”
The Wolverines (2-0-0, 5-2-1) scored the first goal of the game in the 35th minute when senior forward William Mellors-Blair took a pass from redshirt sophomore midfielder Michael Kapitula and buried a shot in the bottom right corner. Kapitula continues to impress this season in his first year of extended playing time.
“He’s fully recovered now,” Daley said. “He came into the season super fit and passionate. He’s a great team player.”
Mellors-Blair continues to excel, leading the team in shots and scoring his third goal for the season — good for second on the team.
But after the opening goal, neither team found the net until after halftime.
At the half, Daley urged his team to maintain possession of the ball and create its own offensive tempo. Michigan kept its usual 4-3-3 formation despite Penn State‘s switch to a 4-4-2.
“(After) halftime is when you want to go for it, in the first 15 or 20 minutes,” Daley said. “The last 30 minutes are always going be challenging, especially in a 1-0 game.”
Louro continued to shine for the Wolverines. The sophomore had five saves in his third clean sheet of the season and anchored a defense that faced the constant offensive threat of Penn State midfielder Connor Maloney and forward Dayonn Harris. The two combined for eight shots, including three on goal.
Louro’s best goalkeeping came in the 83rd minute, when he came off the line to make a save just outside the six-yard box. The netminder realized that certain saves can mean a lot more than simply keeping a team from scoring.
“If I make a save like that or a defender blocks a shot, it gives the team confidence that we’re going to win the game,” Louro said.
The block led to a final offensive counter attack for Michigan that allowed freshman forward Francis Atuahene to finish off an insurance goal.
Atuahene — the Big Ten leader in goals — found the back of the net in the 89th minute. Atauahene took a break to start the second half, but his teammates made sure to not let up in his absence.
“We’re a team,” Daley said. “It’s not one player that is more important than the other. Plenty of players do a job in a variety of areas. We wanted to look at something different when were giving (Atuahene) a break.”
With yet another impressive performance against a ranked opponent, the Wolverines have made one thing clear: They may not dominate the stat sheet, but they will continue to make good on the chances they get.