Leading goal scorer Knox Cameron has been gone for two weeks,
playing for the U.S. Under-20 team in the FIFA World Youth
Championships. But the Michigan men’s soccer team still put
out an impressive performance with its star midfielder’s
untimely absence.

Janna Hutz
Trai Blanks has been the man Michigan coach Steve Burns has utilized in the absence of Knox Cameron. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

After defeating No. 5-seed Notre Dame last Sunday in a shootout,
4-3, the team is now traveling to California this Saturday to play
Santa Clara in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan, which has played minus Cameron for its entire run in
the tournament, initially wondered if it would be able to still
perform offensively without him.

But after goals by senior Mike White, junior Mychal Turpin, and
sophomores Adam Bruh and Chris Glinski in the past two games, the
team has successfully regrouped and learned how to play without
him.

Santa Clara will also be playing without some of its key
players. Starting goalkeeper Steve Cronin and starting defender
Ryan Cochrane are with Cameron, playing for the U.S. Under-20
team.

“They’re in a position where they’ve lost more
because the old cliché is ‘defense wins
championships,’ ” Michigan coach Steve Burns said.
“They’ve lost the best goalkeeper in the nation and one
of the best defenders in the nation.”

However, Santa Clara also has bounced back from its loss of
players, winning against Southern Methodist, Loyola Marymount and
Coastal Carolina to make it to the NCAA quarterfinals.

“They’re a team that doesn’t take a lot of
chances in the back,” Burns said. “So where
they’re missing (those players) more is from an
organizational standpoint. They’ve now had three games to get
it organized.

“Sounds to me like they’ve got it sorted out like
we’ve got it sorted out.”

Trai Bien: Because of Cameron’s absence, Burns has
been forced to fill one of his forward spots on the field with
another player. Sophomore Trai Blanks has joined Turpin and White
as the third forward in Michigan’s 4-3-3 formation.

Although Blanks had only started three times in his Michigan
career before the NCAA Tournament, Burns has started him in both
games so far.

Blanks has not let him down.

On Sunday, Burns commended Blanks on his tough play against
Notre Dame’s Kevin Richards, a defender who is known for his
speed and ability to close in on players he is guarding.

“Outside backs are usually really athletic players, and
(Burns) knew that I could keep up with him,” Blanks said.
“He got behind me a couple times, but I was able to track
back and catch up with him.”

Blanks will likely start in the same position for
Saturday’s game against Santa Clara.

Foul play: One of the reasons that Michigan’s victory over
Notre Dame last Sunday is so impressive is that the team’s
defense had to work twice as hard as that of the Irish. The
referees working the game called a whopping 33 fouls on Michigan
throughout the game, compared to the 8 they called on Notre
Dame.

“It got annoying because I couldn’t play as
aggressively as I wanted to,” said Turpin, who even collected
a yellow card for repeated fouls. “The ref seemed to be a
little biased. We did (deserve) more fouls than them, but it should
have been closer than (33-8).”

Turpin eventually just started laughing after every foul that
was called on him.

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