With a tough Big Ten game against Wisconsin (0-2 Big Ten, 6-5-1 overall) Sunday, the Michigan men”s soccer team needs a productive week of practice.
The Wolverines (1-3, 7-4-1) have struggled recently, going 0-3-1 in their last four games. This includes losses to Big Ten leader Indiana and third-place Michigan State.
Although the recent losses have dropped Michigan to fifth in the Big Ten, the tough matches against quality competition have taught the Wolverines a great deal about the team”s strengths and weaknesses.
This week, coach Steve Burns is primarily concerned with his team”s health and overall fitness.
“This is the time of the season when the starting unit is very fit but also very banged up,” Burns said. “This is a time when the reserve players do not have the same fitness level but are very healthy.”
Against Michigan State, the Wolverines fell prey to many breakaways. While the Spartans” strategy may have played a part in generating scoring chances, the Wolverines” heavy legs may have also contributed.
“When fitness goes, the mind goes with it,” Burns said. “This is most evident on the defensive side of the ball and in transition from attack to defense.”
While Michigan runs itself into shape in practice, it will also work to implement a three-forward look. The Wolverines are blessed with three strong attackers in forwards Jody Keeling and Robert Turpin and midfielder Mychal Turpin. Burns will use Mychal Turpin the rest of the year to take advantage of his dazzling array of ball-moves.
“By moving Mychal Turpin up front into one of the three forward positions, I feel we may be better using his explosive attacking nature and not exposing ourselves as much defensively,” Burns said.
While putting Mychal Turpin in better position to score, Burns is also calling out Keeling and Robert Turpin. In recent games, both have had decent scoring chances, but have failed to cash in at crucial moments.
“Both (Keeling and Turpin) need to find their form and start putting the ball into the old onion bag,” Burns said.
On defense, the coaching staff believes placing Matt Niemeyer at defensive midfield will give the Wolverines a player who can read plays and disrupt offensive attacks. This move will further strengthen the defense by shifting Kevin Taylor back to sweeper, his natural position.
While Burns may be displeased with his team”s recent defensive lapses and missed offensive opportunities, he is certainly proud of his team”s cohesiveness and competitiveness.
“First and foremost,” noted Burns, “this is a team that will stay together and pull for one another.”