- James Coller/Daily
BY FREDDIE KASTEN
For The Daily
Published November 4, 2013
It was only fitting that when a penalty kick was issued to Michigan, with the chance to grab an early lead and momentum, that forward Fabio Pereira would get the chance.
Arguably one of the Michigan men’s soccer team’s best scorers, the senior has been in a bit of slump this season. But in his last home game of his collegiate career, he came through when he was needed most.
Behind Pereira, the Wolverines (3-2-0 Big Ten, 8-5-3 overall) kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive and gave the six seniors a night they will never forget in a 1-0 win over Valparaiso (0-3-2 Horizon League, 3-7-5).
Nearly 27 minutes into the first half, Crusader defender Zev Taublieb was called for a handball in the box, giving Michigan an easy opportunity in what was otherwise a back-and-forth game.
Pereira approached the ball slowly, looked right and fired left into the bottom corner of the net for his second goal of the season.
“I practice PKs a lot, so I kind of just decided right when I went to kick it and I went bottom left,” Pereira said. “It’s a great feeling scoring on any night, but on a night like this, it’s pretty special. Coming out with a win is the most important thing though. Hopefully we can extend our season to the NCAA Tournament.”
From there, it was Michigan’s seniors who fittingly carried the team for the rest of the first half. Forward TJ Roehn, for example, led the charge on the attack, nearly scoring in the 40th minute with a chance to end any comeback hopes.
While some of the seniors might not have as much talent as the more skilled, younger forwards and midfielders, they certainly don’t lack the heart and will to play the game.
“Any senior in college athletics, especially at Michigan with the amount of pride here, in your last home game, if you don’t know if you’ll ever play here again, it’s certainly very special,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “I’m happy for those guys that they got to do that tonight.”
The second half started out as uneventful as the first, thanks in part to strong defensive play from the Wolverines. The team continued its push onward despite the lack of scoring chances.
“We weren’t really threatened, you know?” Daley said. “We let the seniors ride it out tonight, and I think those guys did a really good job. Certainly we’re very happy for those guys that we got the win.”
Aside from sophomore forward James Murphy’s shot that was blocked in the 72nd minute and another strong attempt off Roehn’s foot that hit the crossbar from just outside the box in the 78th minute, there was just a handful of scoring chances for both teams in the second half. Michigan, both defensively and offensively, controlled the tempo, expanding on the already successful first half.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Adam Grinwis was dependable as usual, making the sprawling save of the game in the 51st minute on a header from Valparaiso senior midfielder Charles Barden from about seven yards away from the net.
The win sets the Wolverines up for a critical game against Michigan State on Saturday for better positioning in the Big Ten Tournament and, more importantly, a spot on the national stage.
“We have two lives still to go. If we can beat Michigan State, I think we deserve an opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament,” Daley said. “For us, our goal is to control our own fate and look straight ahead and hope that we can continue to take care of our own business.”