After falling behind early on – in both players and goals – against Michigan State at the U-M Soccer Field yesterday, the Michigan men’s soccer team came back, tying the score at one and sending the game into overtime. The Wolverines created several chances to net the game-winner in overtime, but the contest ended in a 1-1 draw.
“We’re happy to get a point in the Big Ten standings, but we all feel like we should’ve and could’ve won that game,” senior co-captain Kevin Hall said.
But Michigan coach Steve Burns will not settle for near-victories.
“Shoulda woulda couldas aren’t good enough at Michigan,” Burns said definitively.
Michigan (0-1-2 Big Ten, 5-6-3 overall) found itself in a hole 15 minutes into the first half that it struggled to climb out of for the rest of the game.
Off a counterattack, Michigan State (0-2-2, 6-4-2) sent the ball into the Wolverines’ 18-yard box. With Michigan goalkeeper Patrick Sperry coming out of the net to challenge the Spartans’ attack, sophomore Michael Holody entered the scrum. After a Michigan State forward took the shot, the referee claimed Holody used his hands to deflect the sure-goal. Collegiate rules deem that such an infraction on a shot heading toward the net is cause for an automatic red card. Despite Holody’s claim that the ball didn’t hit his hand, but rather the facemask he was wearing to protect a broken nose – which Burns said was cracked in half after the play – the referee slapped the defender with a red card and automatic ejection from the game.
Michigan State also earned a penalty kick because of the infraction. At 15:47, the Spartans’ Matt Kreikemeier sent the shot passed Sperry’s outstretched hands and into the upper left corner of Michigan’s net.
Though Burns said that he will check the tape on the controversial call and possibly send it into the league office, the fact remained that Michigan was now down 1-0 and would have to play the remainder of the game with a one-man disadvantage.
“It was a tough break for us,” Burns said. “But we battled very nicely in the face of that adversity.”
The shorthanded Wolverines were not about to roll over after entering the second half down a goal. With more than 15 minutes remaining in the period, freshman Peri Marosevic was fouled just outside the 18-yard box, giving Michigan a free kick opportunity. Fellow freshman Mauro Fuzetti took the kick in the face of a daunting wall of green defenders. Though the newcomer has recently struggled to convert since his lone goal against Kentucky on Sept. 13, Fuzetti finally earned his place in the sun – on a bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon at that.
Fuzetti’s shot found a hole around the Spartan wall and tied the game at one.
“There was a lot of pressure because we were down, and I hadn’t made (a free kick) all season,” Fuzetti said. “The keeper set the wall, and I think he was expecting me to go over the wall. So I saw the little space near the back post and just hit it there. . I’m glad I stepped up and finally got one in there.”
With the wave of momentum clearly on Michigan’s side, the Wolverines were hopeful to steal the come-from-behind victory after the end of regulation. After a scoreless first overtime period, both teams had 10 additional minutes to try and break the deadlock.
Michigan compensated in fitness what it lacked in players and kept the ball near the Spartans net. Marosevic hit a shot from the right side of the 18-yard box in the first minute of the second overtime period, but the ball went out just wide to the left. A few minutes later, the ball found the feet of sophomore Jake Stacy in the middle of the box. The forward’s right foot connected with the ball, but the shot went straight into the open arms of Michigan State goalkeeper Jason Tillman.
The Wolverines on the bench went from jumping out of their seats in anticipation to nearly ripping their hair out after each one of these near-goals.
These highlights from yesterday’s match – which recorded Michigan’s fourth double-overtime contest in its last five contests – have become the familiar picture of the Wolverines’ up-and-down roller coaster of a season. With yesterday’s draw, Michigan’s winless streak extended to five games, including three ties.
“The heart and soul of this team stirs me,” Burns said. “I love what they give. Now it’s just a matter of finding ways to win.”