It wasn’t the opening weekend that the Michigan men’s soccer team had hoped for. Nor was it one suited for a defending national semifinalist.
Rather, the Wolverines (0-2-0) closed out their two-game road swing still searching for their first victory.
On Friday night, No. 9 Michigan opened the season with a matchup against Bowling Green (1-0-0). The offense, regarded by many as one of the nation’s best in 2010, proved to be fruitless in the opener. The Falcons pulled the upset, 2-0.
Sophomore midfielder Dylan Mencia was ejected following a red card during the match.
“We played a man down,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “And trying to get relationships and learn how everyone plays is difficult when that happens. It was tough because the psyche was suddenly about how we can win down a man.”
Redshirt freshman Adam Grinwis recorded his first official start in goal, saving two of the four attempted shots on goal. Earlier in the week, Burns told the Daily that there would be no controversy — Grinwis was the goalie.
“Adam is going to be our starter,” Burns said last week.
And after the two games this weekend, Burns was quick to praise his netminder.
“Grinwis played great both games,” Burns said.
The Wolverine defense was stellar in the first half, holding the Falcons to a scoreless tie at the intermission. And despite maintaining a healthy 16-11 advantage in shots, beating Bowling Green keeper Michael Wiest was hopeless.
In the second half, the momentum shifted in favor of the Falcons. The seemingly impenetrable wall that had been protecting Grinwis finally broke down, providing Bowling Green with a prime opportunity in the 63rd minute. A counterattack caught the Wolverine defense wrong-footed and the lead was seized.
Later, the Falcons added another on a 84th-minute toe poke that again found the back of the net.
Sunday night, the Wolverines challenged Kentucky, a team they defeated 3-2 in overtime last season. This year, however, Michigan failed to find a positive result in Lexington.
After more deafening silence from the Wolverine attack in the games’ early stages, Michigan finally received its chance for its first goal of the young season when sophomore midfielder Fabio Pereira Villas Boas was fouled inside of the box for a penalty. The Brazilian youngster capitalized on the opportunity and the Wolverines captured a 1-0 advantage.
“Fabio stepped up calmly and read the keeper well,” Burns said.
But from that point on, it seemed every opportunity and every advantage to break through were snatched up by the hungry Wildcats. A barrage of shots rained down on Grinwis and, despite a valiant effort, the second half was less kind to the keeper after a perfect first.
Kentucky notched two goals just seven minutes apart and the Wolverines were doomed to a winless weekend.
“Seventy minutes in, we just ran out of gas,” Burns said.
But for Burns and company, there is no cause for alarm just yet.
“It’s going to take a little time for this group to come together,” Burns said. “The players understand that. This is a very strong, driven team.”