It happened in a flash and to the amazement of almost all those in attendance.
With just under four minutes remaining and the Wolverines probing for a go-ahead goal, the ball was played back to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville goalkeeper Noah Heim. What was supposed to be a routine clearance turned into anything but as Michigan sophomore forward Derick Broche came flying in to block his kick.
The ball ricocheted off Broche and into the path of fellow Wolverine Nebojsa Popovic. With Heim chasing back towards goal and the Cougar defenders out of position, Popovic coolly finished off the unexpected opportunity to restore Michigan’s one-goal advantage.
SIUE (0-1-1) could never recover as the Wolverines (1-1-0) added another late goal to complete their less than straightforward 3-1 victory.
The intensity was there for Michigan from the opening whistle. Having lost their home opener to Florida Gulf Coast University, the Wolverines came out energetic and eager to start Monday’s game off on the right foot. A goal 3:50 into the game from Broche accomplished exactly that. Junior winger Umar Farouk Osman sent a deep cross into the box, which Broche met with a leaning header.
After missing the entirety of his freshman season recovering from a broken leg he suffered at the end of high school, Broche’s header marked his first career goal and came in his career start.
“For me it means everything,” Broche, who had a metal rod inserted in his leg, said. “I’ve been coming to this field since I was a kid. And last year going through that, it just means all the more. I’m just happy that I was able to help the team in anyway I can.”
The Wolverines looked well in control the rest of the half. Though Michigan was still working out some early-season kinks for much of the first half, its energy alone held the Cougars in check — allowing only one shot on goal.
Much of the second half was punctuated by missed chances from the Wolverines. On a number of occasions, senior forward Jack Hallahan glided through the SIUE midfield and played pinpoint passes to Michigan’s forwards, who failed to capitalize.
“We didn’t take our chances,” Daley said. “I think we created enough chances to make the game not as unnervy as it was at the end. I think the big thing for us is, we want to give our team a chance to win the game, and if we don’t take some of our chances, we gotta make sure we hold them on defense.”
Those missed opportunities came back to bite the Wolverines when the visitors nabbed the tying goal out of seemingly nothing. Cougar forward Jorge Gonzalez got on the end of a cross from the right wing and nodded it past Wolverine goalkeeper Andrew Verdi in the 74th minute. The goal took the air out of the stadium and ten tense minutes followed until Popovic scored off the Broche deflection.
Broche secured the win by firing his second goal of the day into the roof of the net after some nifty footwork to get into the six-yard box moving the score to 3-1.
“Ultimately, we found a way to win though,” Daley said. “I think that’s a big piece of the puzzle early on in the season.”