In the midst of Sunday’s thrilling 1-0 victory against Northwestern on the U-M Soccer Field, which was soaking wet due to the day’s inclement weather, Michigan men’s soccer freshman Steve Bonnell proved he isn’t afraid to get down and dirty – in fact, he craves it.
Bonnell was seen running all over the field, sliding and tackling the Northwestern players amidst mother nature’s downpour. And Sunday wasn’t the first time Bonnell shined in such a way for Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 6-2-0 overall).
“I’m a big fan of slide tackling,” Bonnell said. “I think that’s one of the best parts of my game – defending and chasing after the ball.”
Ironically, Bonnell isn’t listed as a defender. Michigan coach Steve Burns placed Bonnell in the position of an attacking forward. But the freshman doesn’t see his role limited to goal-scoring.
“Most of the time, forwards are the players that say, ‘Look at my name. I’m a forward, Coach. Let everyone else defend and you just get me the ball, and I’ll do my thing.’ But Steve loves defending, and he’s good at it,” Burns said. “He works hard and covers a tremendous amount of ground.”
Scoring his lone goal of the season in Michigan’s 2-0 victory against Detroit on Sept. 1 , Bonnell is still learning to find his form on the team and adjust to the Big Ten style of play.
“I think I started off (the season) playing pretty well,” Bonnell said. “I kind of tapered off. But now I think I’m going to get back up there. It takes a little bit to get used to the changes in the game. It’s much faster and much more physical. Coming from club and high school, (college soccer) is 100 times more physical. You need to get big.”
Burns sees much potential in Bonnell’s role as a power forward, especially because Michigan has been attempting to transition into a new offensive shape this year.
“In the 4-4-2 shape, Bonnell is for sure one of the two (forwards),” Burns said. “He’s a target forward. He’s got a tremendous work rate. He’s a great kid and a great player.”
As a Michigan native, Bonnell was extremely enthusiastic about joining the Michigan soccer program – even well before the fall.
“Bonnell was our first verbal commitment of the freshman class a year ago,” Burns said. “He knew he wanted to come here.”
Living in St. Clair Shores, Bonnell was no stranger to the University and acknowledged that he was certainly eager to be a part of the program here.
“I love the coaches here,” Bonnell said. “I pretty much grew up around (Ann Arbor). I was on campus all the time. I went to football games. I looked at Northwestern and other places, but none of them felt the same (as Michigan).”
Bonnell graduated from Detroit Country Day High School, where he was awarded both the NSCAA/Adidas Michigan Player of the Year Award and the Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year Award in 2004. As a senior, Bonnell wrote his name in his high school’s history books for career goals (92 goals) and season goals (36 goals).
Aside from soccer, Bonnell’s high school days also prepared him for the academic aspect of being a student-athlete at Michigan.
“I came from Detroit Country Day High School, and it was supposed to adjust you to college (well),” Bonnell said. “Here, my classes are going well. So, I’m pretty much adjusting really well.”
Bonnell will lead a rejuvenated Michigan team – which has won four of its last five games – against Dayton on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.