The game ended quickly. Despite so many perfectly placed shots, it just came down to one.
After a hard-fought, evenly-matched game, the Michigan men’s soccer team couldn’t contain Rutgers forward Jason Wright, who shot the ball straight into the bottom left corner in the 93rd minute of Saturday’s game at U-M Soccer Stadium. With that first and only goal, the Wolverines (2-1-2 Big Ten, 5-3-3 overall) suffered their first conference loss of the season, 1-0.
“Overtime is a coin toss with any team,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “I think we just lost a coin toss today.”
Freshman forward Francis Atuahene and senior forward William Mellors-Blair continued to lead the Wolverines’ offensive attack. Atuahene led the team with four shots, with Mellors-Blair adding two. Both Atuahene and Mellors-Blair were tackled hard in the penalty box, at different points during the game, yet did not receive penalty kicks, much to the dismay of the fans at the game.
Junior defender Lars Eckenrode explained that despite the aggressiveness of the Rutgers (2-3-0, 6-4-1) defense, Michigan maintained its typical approach.
“East Coast teams are tougher on the tackle,” Eckenrode said. “I know that, just being from the East Coast. It (gave) us a little more energy to come even harder on the tackle.”
The Wolverines and Scarlet Knights fought neck and neck throughout the game. The two teams attempted 14 and 13 shots, including three and four on goal, respectively. The teams also had similar foul counts, and each goalkeeper saved three shots.
Many of Michigan’s chances were created by junior midfielder Rylee Woods. Woods took many of the set pieces, including the Wolverines’ 11 corners. In the 63rd minute, the junior crossed a ball into the box to senior midfielder Colin McAtee, but the ensuing header was blocked by the Rutgers goalkeeper.
Sunday marked Michigan’s third consecutive overtime match. The team continued into extra time with the same strategy and mindset it held throughout the previous 90 minutes. Daley emphasized how quick and aggressive overtime matches can seem.
“When you’re at home, you don’t sit and defend for 20 minutes,” Daley said. “Obviously we want to go for it and play it on the offensive.”
Despite the team’s failure to convert its chances, Daley shied away from criticizing the team’s offensive attacking skills.
“It was a rough day at the office,” he said.
Daley praised the Scarlet Knights for their performance. He also spoke of the strength of the Big Ten conference as a whole, noting the difficulty of playing each team.
Daley stressed that Michigan will look to move forward from this loss and focus on preparing for its upcoming games.
“We gotta put this behind us, (not) dwell on it,” he said. “We have to move on, get our minds right for Tuesday.”
In a heads-or-tails match, the coin came up on the wrong side for the Wolverines.