The No. 9 Michigan men’s soccer team was ready to shake
the hands of its Detroit opponents following its 2-1 victory
yesterday at the Varsity Soccer Field. And this time, the gesture
wouldn’t have been out of “good sportsmanship”,
but rather as a “thank you.”

Michigan had the Titans to thank for the Wolverines’ first
goal of the game, which resulted from an own-goal by Detroit within
the first 15 minutes of the game. At 14:38, Michigan fifth-year
senior Matt Niemeyer fired a shot that was sailing wide of
Detroit’s goal. But, in a failed attempt to clear the ball,
the Titans accidentally found the back of their own net after the
ball bounced in off the left post. While Detroit was shooting
itself in the foot, the Wolverines were on their way to their fifth
straight victory of the season, improving their overall record to
5-0.

“To be honest, it was all about who was willing to put
more energy into this game to win it,” Michigan coach Steve
Burns said. “They wanted to play a slower game, and we fell
into that at first. But then we got out of that and played a more
up-tempo game. We were able to make them defend a lot, kept
possession in the front half of the field and took a lot of energy
out of them, which was to our advantage.”

Before Michigan was able to get on the scoreboard again, Detroit
converted late in the 38th minute of the first half. Titans senior
Ablaye Camara tied the game late in the second half after sliding
the ball past Michigan’s junior goalie Peter Dzubay.

“It was a give-away from the center of midfield,”
Burns said. “That’s one of the key parts of the field
you always want to have control of. We gave the ball away there,
which created a counterattack right up the middle of the
field.”

With the game tied 1-1 at halftime, Michigan was having
difficulty converting on the many scoring opportunities it created,
a recurring challenge for the Wolverines’ offense so far in
the season. Michigan posted 13 shots on goal and 25 total shots for
the game.

Luckily, Michigan senior Mychal Turpin was able to take
advantage of one of those many opportunities in his typical
athletic fashion.

At 55:25, junior Ryan Alexander’s fancy footwork on the
far left side of the field set up a pass back to sophomore Brian
Popeney in the middle of the field. Popeney then sprayed the ball
across to Turpin, who found the right side of the net and gave the
Wolverines the lead.

“We just worked hard and won first and second
balls,” Turpin said. “Once you do that, our talent
takes care of itself.”

Turpin’s second-half goal was his second of the season and
proved to be the game-winner for Michigan.

“Mychal’s a special player,” Burns said.
“He continues to get better game in and game out. He’s
a player that gets a lot of attention from the other teams, and he
knows how to handle that.”

Burns also gave a lot of credit to Detroit’s goalkeeper,
Ryan Mendonca, who made several saves throughout the game,
including two consecutive headers from Michigan players. And while
the Wolverines are struggling to generate offense, they continue to
turn to their most consistent weapon — their defense.

“(Chris) Glinski and (Kevin) Hall stepped up and shut down
everyone,” Dzubay said. “(Camara) liked to dribble a
lot, so we tried to body him a lot more. We gave him a hard time,
and he started getting frustrated. I think we’re pretty solid
on defense right now.”

Dzubay himself contributed to Michigan’s defensive effort,
recording a save and only allowing one goal. Dzubay demonstrated a
“no-fear” style when he repeatedly came out of the
goalie box to challenge Detroit forwards.

“This year, I’m trying to make it one of my strong
points to come off my line and be more aggressive because it gives
more confidence to the team,” Dzubay said. “Basically,
if the ball comes into my box, I want to try to win it.”

Consistent defense also played a role in Michigan’s 2-1
victory over Dayton on Friday. Glinski scored the game-winning goal
at 84:05 and also tallied an assist when Michigan sophomore Bobby
Trybula tied the game at 1-1 in the 53rd minute.

The win marked the Wolverines’ best start (4-0) since the
program’s inception in 2000.

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