Through five games, offensive prospects were not looking very bright for the Michigan men’s soccer team. The Wolverines had scored a total of two goals — each by Fabio Villas Boas Pereira — in those five games, all of them losses.
A change was in order for this young team, especially with Big Ten play coming up in a couple weeks. Through the thunder and rain, the Wolverines were able to do just that in two physical, messy games this weekend.
Michigan (1-4-1) earned its first positive weekend of the year, picking up its first victory on Friday evening in a 1-0 victory over Marshall (0-4), before tying a tough Georgetown (3-1-1) team, 2-2, on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought we did a great job in terms of showing the heart, showing the fight,” said Michigan coach Steve Burns. “(We are) rounding the corner in terms of those categories, those intangibles.”
In both games, Michigan entered halftime deadlocked in a scoreless tie, but the biggest difference between the two games was what happened after the 45th minute.
Against Marshall, Pereira was again the only Wolverine to score, but this time that was enough. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Adam Grinwis registered his first shutout of the year, and the combination of his play mixed with the slippery conditions on the field allowed Michigan to celebrate at home for the first time this season.
The rain played a big factor for both teams, most notably when Pereira tiptoed past a fallen Thundering Herd defender, who had slipped on the turf, to score the only goal of the game.
“Five to six days of rain and this is already a loose field,” Burns said. “We’ve really got to examine that because when a divot comes up it’s tough to get that grass to grow.”
The field was still soggy for Sunday’s game, but both teams were able to do more with the ball this time around in the second half.
Georgetown scored the first goal of the game in the 50th minute on a header by junior midfielder Andy Riemer, who then earned the ire of the Michigan student section, the Michigan Ultras, by flashing his jersey at the crowd while celebrating.
But the fans didn’t have much time to be upset. Less than two minutes later sophomore forward Malcolm Miller took a perfect cross from Pereira and turned it into his first goal of the season. It was also the first Wolverine goal not scored by Pereira all season.
The start to the second half also included some extracurriculars, when a shoving match broke out near Michigan’s goal that resulted in a free kick for the Hoyas. The converted shot was called back because it was an indirect kick, but the game remained chippy until the final whistle.
“Being at home, the last thing you want to do is lose a physical battle,” Miller said. “The physical battle is the last thing you want to give up.”
Things turned bleak for Michigan later in the half, when Georgetown sophomore midfielder Steve Nuemann booted a powerful shot past Grinwis that seemed to catch him by surprise. The score held until the 89th minute, when junior midfielder Latif Alashe scored a rebound off a header to send the game into overtime. The incredible goal was contested by the Hoyas, who thought Alashe was offside, but the equalizer stood.
Including Sunday’s game, Georgetown has had four of its five games go into overtime, and three of those five into double overtime. Compared to Michigan, who had not played an overtime period yet, the Hoyas figured to have the edge in extra time.
Even so, fatigue set in for both teams, and the tie held. The game slowed down in the overtime periods, with no shots on goal registered for either team.
“Overtime was pretty sloppy. It was both teams playing direct and trying to establish possession in the front half of the field,” Burns said. “It was good to see our guys get into an overtime game. One of the goals of our season is overtime being our time, and we’re off on the right foot with that.”
The season may not have started out on the right foot, but the team seems to be taking a step in the right direction after this weekend.