The Michigan men’s soccer team will dive head-first into
the NCAA Tournament today when the Wolverines face off against
Saint Peter’s College. But while Saint Peter’s comes in
as a lower seed and “underdog,” Michigan is not exactly
buying this game as an early-round breeze. For one thing, the
Wolverines have never faced Saint Peter’s. Michigan has also
never played in an NCAA Tournament game, while Saint Peter’s
has experienced the heat of the NCAA Tournament when it defeated a
seasoned Brown team last week.
“There’s certainly a level of confidence with our
team,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “There’s
also a level of concern because it’s the unknown for us.
It’s uncharted territory, and we haven’t been there
Burns feels that Michigan should not look at Saint Peter’s
as the underdog, and that it should take an underdog attitude in
“We need to play exactly how Saint Peter’s is
playing, and that is like the Cinderella wildcard,” Burns
said. “This is new to us, this how we think we need to play.
This is the intensity we need to play with, go out and get it
Burns noted that Saint Peter’s plays a very similar style
of soccer to Michigan, and that should produce a high-scoring
“They’re a team that’s a lot like us,”
Burns said. “They prefer to keep the ball on the ground, and
they prefer to play more of a possession oriented game, compared to
a direct style of soccer.”
Putting goals on the board will not be an easy task for the
Wolverines because they will be without the services of the 2003
Big Ten Athlete of the Year Knox Cameron. He will be playing with
the U.S. Under-20 Youth Soccer Team in the FIFA World Youth
Championship for the next few weeks.
While replacing Cameron is impossible, the coaches have been
working with the players to ensure that the team understands that
Cameron is only one player, and that this team has the talent to
win without him.
“We’ve tried to make sure that the rallying cry is
not, ‘Oh look at us, we’re without Knox Cameron, our
best player,’ but it’s, ‘Hey, look at how we are
still a good team even without our best player,’ ”
Without Cameron, Michigan will lean heavily on junior Mychal
Turpin. Turpin went on a sensational run early in the season
— at one stretch netting two four-goal games in two weeks.
But he hasn’t scored a goal since Sept. 30.
Turpin suffered an ankle injury shortly after his second
four-goal performance, and has not been the same since.
“There’s some psychology that’s gone on with
Mychal, in terms of getting him back to his form that he had in the
first half of the season,” Burns said.
It is no secret that Michigan will try to get the ball to
Turpin’s feet today, giving him the opportunity to work the
magic he did in September.
Michigan has had a long and successful season, and it has worked
hard to prepare itself for its first run in the NCAA
Burns knows that no matter how much the other coaches and
himself have prepared the team for what lies ahead, come game day,
it’s up to the players to make it happen.
“Soccer’s a great game,” Burns said.
“It’s very different than any other sport where
it’s player centered and not coach centered. Come game day,
coaches have very little impact on the game. It’s all the
work that the players have done and the coaches have done up till