No coach learns to accept losing consistently. Michigan coach Steve Burns is no stranger to this saying. Yesterday’s 2-0 loss to No. 5 Indiana (8-1-3) was the eighth time the team has lost to Indiana in the five years of the program’s existence, giving Burns an 0-8 record against the team from Bloomington.
“It eats at me,” Burns said. “And if it eats at me, I’m going to make sure it eats at (my team).”
As the clock wound down on the U-M Varsity Field, amidst a crowd of over 2,000 spectators, the Wolverines (7-4-1) found themselves numbed by another loss to the Big Ten powerhouse.
The game was a physical matchup of high energy and fast-paced play. The Wolverines were aggressive in all areas of the field but had a tough time gaining possession of the ball for the majority of the game. Burns had mentioned that holding possession was the key to winning the game against Indiana.
The Hoosiers were led by a powerful midfield that was able to get multiple touches on the ball and technically outdo the Wolverines. Michigan had a tough time shutting down Indiana’s senior midfielder, Brian Plotkin. The playmaker appeared to single-handedly dominate the Wolverines on the midfield and break through the defense to get balls onto the feet of freshman forward Lee Nguyen. The Hoosiers finished the game with 17 shots on goal compared to the Wolverines’ six.
“You always get chances (to score) against a good team, and the difference is that they were finishing their chances at a much higher rate than we were,” Burns said. “Regardless of how they scored their first goal, (they had) chances before that to get on the board. That’s something we’re waiting to see our team put together.”
Indiana’s first goal against Michigan was scored after a penalty kick taken by Nguyen 53 minutes into the game. A scrum in front of the net and a foul against the Hoosier allowed for a shot to be taken from within the 15-yard line. Nguyen’s shot went to the lower right corner past a diving Dzubay.
“I think (the penalty kick) was a weak call,” Dzubay said. “But you have to deal with it and play on. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
After the goal, Dzubay tried to get his team pumped up by yelling at them to ‘step up’ and ‘not give up.’ Despite losing ground on the game, the Wolverines managed to play at an elevated level of play.
“There wasn’t any panic on our side, ” Burns said. “We don’t like going down a goal, but there wasn’t any panic. And after that goal a lot of the energy came out of the game, and we started to call on the bench players to see if we could get it back. That was really the overall tactic that we thought Indiana couldn’t last through.”
To the Wolverine’s dismay the Hoosiers continued to make consistent breaks to the goal, but Dzubay turned away six shots in second half.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Dzubay,” Burns said. “He is such a strong goalkeeper. He’s keeps us in games long enough to figure out how to win them, but today we couldn’t do that.”
Indiana was able to convert its second goal at 79:56 when junior defender Julian Dieterle found sophomore Josh Tudela at the top of the goal box and Tudela connected with the ball, sending it through the Michigan defense and past Dzubay. The ball sank into the right corner and ended any hope of a comeback for the Wolverines.
When the game concluded the Michigan players looked defeated and frustrated with the loss, but Burns found solace in the fact that his team is developing its form and making it work in game situations. With the amount of depth it has, the Wolverines are due for a win in the near future.
“We had a great work ethic in the game against a team that is as strong as they are because they work hard,” Burns said. ” Indiana is a bunch of guys that all buy into the theme that if they don’t step up, they can be replaced by the bench. I think our team is beginning to work towards this theme now that we have so much depth. Our next game may have a different ending.”