Stevens and Arnone sorely missed against Indiana

Chanmee Chung/Daily
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By Kevin Santo, For the Daily
Published October 26, 2014

Freshman defender Billy Stevens and senior midfielder Tyler Arnone have been staples of the Michigan men’s soccer team’s lineup, each starting 13 of 15 games this year. And with both out on Sunday against No. 8 Indiana due to sickness and injury, respectively, something was clearly missing on the field for the Wolverines.

“The guys who played today gave everything they could and did a good job,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “But when you have guys who have played as much as those two, certainly it’s hard to not say you didn’t have their energy, their spirit, their fight. I think that’s what both of those guys bring, top to bottom, first and foremost.”

The Wolverines led early after junior midfielder Colin McAtee crossed the ball across the six-yard box to freshman forward Ahinga Selemani, who drilled it into the open net in the sixth minute. However, Indiana responded with three goals in the second half to win.

Throughout the first half, it was clear that Indiana was attempting to exploit Stevens’ absence. The Hoosiers were playing at a high tempo and specifically attacked the left side of the defense where Stevens’ replacement, sophomore defender Andre Morris, was playing.

Eventually Indiana’s relentless attack led to a series of defensive breakdowns for Michigan’s backline.

In the second half, Indiana dominated possession and created several chances, including 13 shots. Michigan struggled to cope with the Hoosiers’ set pieces, as defender Grant Lillard and forward Andrew Oliver scored two headers off of long throw-ins in the 46th and 54th minute, respectively. In addition, the Wolverines allowed forward Femi Hollinger-Janzen, the Hoosiers’ leading goal-scorer, to be on the ball consistently and influence the flow of the game.

Although he is a freshman, it’s clear that Daley gives Stevens a tremendous amount of responsibility. Arnone’s physicality and experience could have provided the Wolverines with much-needed relief versus an Indiana midfield that dictated the pace of play throughout the game. However, Daley acknowledged that the absence of the two veterans provided the team and other players with an opportunity to grow.

“I think we’re capable but not consistent,” he said. “We’re a growing group and a youthful group, but these are lessons learned against a team that just kept going and going and going. Even though they had a bad start to the game, they continued to focus down the stretch.”

Michigan will need the talent of Stevens and Arnone as it heads into a difficult three-game stretch against Oakland, No. 10 Michigan State and Ohio State. The fixtures against Michigan State and Ohio State will be the Wolverines’ last two matchups of the Big Ten regular season — contests that could prove critical in position for the Big Ten Tournament.