Just 11 minutes into the second half of the Michigan men’s soccer team’s season opener Friday, two players from each team went down in the Wolverines’ box. Michigan fans held their collective breath, as it appeared to be a penalty-inducing foul on the Wolverines.
Instead, a yellow card went to No. 19 South Florida forward Nazeem Bartman for diving in the box. It was his second yellow card of the game, and it sent him off the field. Suddenly, Michigan had the upper hand.
The Wolverines tried to take advantage of the situation, but after a long battle and two overtimes, the season opener ended in a scoreless tie in Tampa, Fla.
“We upped the tempo and had a lot more of the ball, which was good,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “But unfortunately we didn’t get that final goal to get the result we were desperate for.”
In the first half, neither side had many opportunities to score. Michigan’s back line applied a high pressure early on, and junior goalkeeper Evan Louro wasn’t afraid to make plays outside of his box.
The Wolverines’ first scare came just six minutes into the game when Louro came out to clear a ball with his head and missed. Fortunately for Michigan, the defense was able to track the ball down and clear it without much of an issue.
Last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, sophomore forward Francis Atuahene, was dangerous any time he touched the ball even though he was double-teamed for most of the night. His best attempt at a goal came 13 minutes into the game.
He used his speed down the left flank to pass all the defenders and took a shot toward the near post. Bulls goalkeeper Christian Knight did a commendable job to dive onto the ball.
The Wolverines and South Florida went into halftime scoreless with two shots on goal apiece.
Goal-scoring opportunities were also limited in the second half, though the best chance of the game came from South Florida’s Bartman before he went off. Forward Melvin Becket slipped Bartman a ball in the box for a wide-open shot, and all Louro could do was get a foot on it to kick it out of bounds.
This may have been all the momentum that the Bulls needed, but not long after they almost had the opening goal, they went down to 10 men.
Michigan never took full advantage of South Florida being down a player, which sent the game into overtime.
Golden-goal rules applied — whichever team scores first wins — so both teams were aggressive when the first overtime began.
“We went for it,” Daley said. “We obviously push, push, pushed and went for it to see if we could win the game on the road against a highly ranked opponent.”
Though Atuahene left the game early in first overtime, the Wolverines’ attack didn’t suffer. Following a Michigan corner, freshman forward Jack Hallahan took a shot from 10 yards out that was blocked. Michigan scrambled to recover the loose ball in the box, but it was eventually cleared away.
After 110 minutes in the Tampa heat, both sides were exhausted, and their play reflected it, with minimal chances for either side in the final minutes. Michigan now must rest and recover before taking on Florida Gulf Coast University on Monday.