In the Michigan men’s soccer game against Indiana on Saturday, a goal was scored 22 minutes into the game. But this time it wasn’t scored by the opposing team, as it had been for its past two home games.
Assisted by junior defender Kofi Opare and freshman forward Matthew Rickard, freshman forward Tyler Arnone slid a long ball past the Hoosier keeper to put the Wolverines ahead 1-0.
But that lead would soon be relinquished.
With a 1-0 lead at the half, Michigan seemed in a good position to upset No. 18 Indiana at the U-M Soccer Complex. But the Hoosiers came out with a strong attack in the second half, scoring four consecutive goals to beat the Wolverines 4-1.
“You got to give Indiana a lot of credit — that’s a good team out there,” said Michigan coach Steve Burns. “I thought our effort was great. That’s one of the first things you look at in a loss — did you give effort? I thought it was brilliant from everybody.
“I think we played some of our best soccer in parts. We were dangerous, we were dangerous-looking.”
The Wolverines seemed threatening enough in the first half, passing the ball well and putting up more shots on goal than the Hoosiers — Michigan had seven to Indiana’s five.
An offsides call on Indiana gave Michigan a free kick and eventually the momentum. That’s when Arnone put Michigan ahead.
Michigan’s solid defense continued, and for much of the first half the ball was in Indiana’s half of the field. The Wolverines entered the locker room with the lead and plenty of confidence.
“I think you’re excited about getting the lead, but you’re thinking about what’s next,” said senior midfielder Adam Shaw. “You try to put that behind you as fast as you can, because in the blink of an eye it could be 1-1 again. I think we did a good job in the first half getting to halftime and keeping the pressure on them.”
But it was Indiana that came out ready to attack after the break. The Hoosiers took a hold of the game with better passing and more ball control and the Wolverines couldn’t counter.
“They put three really strong, dynamic midfield players in the middle of the field,” Burns said. “Those three were without positions, and we had trouble picking that up. Those three players, as good as they were offensively, they were equally good defensively. We had trouble handling it.”
Indiana used those three players defensively, which worked to its advantage. The Hoosiers converted missed shots by Michigan into effective counterattacks, where they scored the majority of their goals. Indiana’s counterattack caused the Wolverines huge problems on defense.
“I think it boils down to really one point for us: we’ve gotta have that communication and leadership out of the middle of our defense,” Burns said. “When they are confident and playing with their heads up and chest puffed out, it breathes life into our entire team. I thought tonight they got put on their back foot a little bit and we didn’t get that out of ’em where we needed that.”
The match marked the third loss for the Wolverines in Big Ten play. Despite the defeat, the Wolverines have confidence in their ability to win the rest of their games and continue to win throughout the postseason.
Last year, Michigan won three matches in four days to win the tournament. The Wolverines are hoping for similar results in November.
“I think we’re a team that’s capable of repeating,” Shaw said. “It’s just a matter of belief and getting the guys to rally around the belief that we’re a team capable of doing that. The personality of the entire team is to never give up. We can continue to get better so by the time the Big Ten tournament comes, we’re ready to do big things.”