The Michigan men’s soccer team hoped to secure its first win of the season against Western Michigan on Wednesday night, but after another hard-fought battle and a 1-0 loss, a win still eludes them.
For most Wolverine fans who attend the games, the losing streak may be confusing. Some stats suggest Michigan is in the upper echelon of teams in the country, but the reality is much different.
Michigan (0-3-0 Big Ten, 0-5-3 overall) is No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 18 in the country in shots per game, averaging 16.14. It has outshot its opponents in seven out of its last eight games. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, their attacks haven’t translated into goals.
“I’d be very discouraged if we weren’t creating any chances,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “This game could have been 3-0 in the first five minutes.”
The stats point to a serious issue with the number of chances and lack of goals.
Talent on the team does not seem to be the issue. Sophomore midfielder Francis Atuahene has 23 shots this season, and freshman forward Jack Hallahan has 19, and both have been standout players. But for some reason, these shots aren’t finding the net.
The Wolverines have a young front line, and their inexperience may be hurting their chances. And another loss in the books may be affecting the confidence of the team.
Every game has been close enough that one goal could have switched the momentum completely. In the first 30 seconds of Wednesday’s match, Atuahene dribbled the ball at the top of the box and sent a through ball to sophomore midfielder Ivo Cerda, who shot it to the far post. All the Broncos’ goalkeeper Drew Shepherd could do was get a fingertip on it to push it away from the goal.
An early goal could have been exactly what Michigan needed to control the game, instead of getting stuck in the kick-and-chase tactic. As soon as the Wolverines are down, they play some of their best soccer. However, they’ll need to come out with that fire from the beginning if they want to see a change in the final results.
“They came out with more energy and hunger than we did, which kind of caught us by surprise,” said senior defender Lars Eckenrode. “It’s safe to say that’s what got us in the end.”
Daley isn’t counting his team out yet, though. Michigan still has five Big Ten games to play, and he knows that if his team can peak at the right moment, it might have a chance to turn its season around.
“We’re proud coaches, we’re proud student-athletes to represent Michigan,” Daley said. “It’ll hurt tonight, but we’ll pick ourselves up and we’ll continue to work to get better.”