The Michigan men’s soccer team is focusing on the small victories. Though the third-ranked Hoosiers (1-0-1 Big Ten, 4-0-2 overall) bested the Wolverines (0-0-2 Big Ten, 0-3-3 overall), Michigan’s strong team play against a highly ranked team provides hope for the near future.
Senior defender and team captain Lars Eckenrode called the game a “moral victory,” commending his teammates superior teamwork and relentless play.
“I thought we did a great job playing a national powerhouse,” Eckenrode said. “We got unlucky in spots, but we played hard as a team and the coaches and the team are happy with how we preformed.”
Michigan’s aggressive approach was evident from the first whistle, but both teams struggled to get any momentum going early. After some back-and-forth play, Indiana’s defense became a key factor, successfully keeping the Michigan offense out of Hoosier territory. Indiana’s strong defense eventually carried over to the offense, leading to a goal off of a blocked shot by Michigan goalie Evan Louro with 26:22 to go in the first half.
Instead of bowing down to the high-ranked Hoosiers, the Wolverines seemed to gain a sense of urgency after the goal.
“The team began to control the time of possession, and pass the ball well,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “We played really well, we passed really well, we had Indiana on their back foot.”
With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Michigan missed on its biggest opportunity of the game, when Eckenrode hit the crossbar from a corner kick by senior defender Rylee Woods. The Wolverines’ inability to convert on scoring opportunities was the story for much of the first half, but Eckenrode and junior defenseman Billy Stevens kept Michigan in the game with a strong defensive showing, which held the score to 1-0 going into half.
With just five goals in six games, an inability to score has been the biggest issue for the Wolverines this season. While their strong defense has helped hide it, the offense is still keeping them out of the win column.
The offensive struggles are especially frustrating considering Michigan ranks ninth in the nation and first in the Big Ten in shots per game, averaging 17 per game (prior to tonight’s game).
“The team has just been unfortunate, not finding the back of the net this season and again tonight,” Daley said.
In the second half, the Wolverines experienced the same misfortune, as they were unable to find the back of the net. In the end, Indiana showed its veteran experience, scoring a late goal and cementing the win at 2-0.
Despite the disheartening losses, the Wolverines are looking to carry their strong defensive play into a tough matchup with Michigan State this Sunday.
“We are happy that we can compete with a high ranked, solid team like Indiana,” Daley said. “We know we can play with them. We look to use this momentum.”