The Michigan men’s soccer team lost to Kentucky last night, 2-1, but the Wolverines’ coach says it wasn’t because Michigan (4-2-1) was the worse team.
“We had a large track of possessions where it was clear we were the superior team,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “But when you go on the road, you have got to bring a killer instinct with you, and we left that at home.”
But it was the Wildcats who came up big in key moments. Kentucky (4-2-0) had never beaten the Wolverines in the history of its program. The three previous times the teams have played, the Wildcats lost in overtime.
Both teams had a slow first half offensively, combining for just five shots on goal. Burns said the lack of scoring by the Wildcats was mostly due to Michigan’s solid team defense.
“We were all over them, to be honest,” he said. “What I had to try and do with the team’s attitude was make sure they realized that the game was far from over.”
But though the Wolverines dominated the first half on defense, their offense couldn’t capitalize, and the score remained 0-0.
“(Kentucky’s) defense was pretty good — they were athletic,” senior forward Jake Stacy said. “But we just could not catch a break.”
Ten minutes into the second half, Kentucky opened the scoring when a ball dropped in front of Michigan’s goalie box. The Wolverine defense couldn’t clear it out, and Kentucky forward Marco Dos Santos booted it in.
“It’s a classic college soccer goal,” Burns said. “You could call it an ugly goal, but moms love their ugly kids just as much as the pretty ones.”
The Wildcats’ second goal came on a free kick from junior All-American defender Barry Rice from 22 yards out in the 74th minute.
With under four minutes remaining, Stacy tallied the lone Wolverine score when he took a pass from redshirt sophomore Cam Cameron and found the net from 15 yards out. The Wolverines drew a corner kick with a minute left, but could not convert to tie the game.
Burns hesitated to place the blame on any specific player, but said his team’s game plan was the right one.
“It was really on our outside midfielders to bring that energy to the game and help us win it,” he said. “We didn’t really get what we needed to from the wide positions on the field.”
Coach Burns said he told his players after the game how close they are to being a team with a killer instinct that can dominate, even on the road.
“It’s about not worrying about your own aches and pains and trying to inflict them more on the opponent,” he said. “It’s putting yourself in harm’s way. Right now, it’s that final piece right there that’s missing for this team.”