Entering Sunday’s match against Georgetown, the Michigan men’s soccer team’s offensive output this season had been monopolized by one man — sophomore midfielder Fabio Villas Boas Pereira.
That all changed in Sunday’s 2-2 tie when sophomore forward Malcolm Miller staked his claim as a contributing member of the Wolverine attack while making his first career start.
“(Miller) is strong as a bull and that’s a brave run that he made to score his goal,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “You’re going to be seeing a lot more of Miller.”
But it wasn’t as much Miller selecting the appropriate time — the 51st minute mark against the Hoyas, to be exact — for his first-ever collegiate goal, as it was him needing to capitalize on a rare opportunity. Chances against Georgetown, which was coming off an overtime victory over Michigan State earlier in the weekend, didn’t come easy. When space was finally created, Miller beat the keeper when Michigan needed it the most, trailing a goal.
“It was amazing to be out here for a home game and everything just kind of fell into place,” Miller said. “It was a play where the ball was in the midfield bogged up. (Pereira) got a play and I … just ran hard to the box and was right there for the finish.”
Just one minute earlier, the Hoyas used a header that found the right side netting past Wolverine redshirt freshman keeper Adam Grinwis to take the lead after a scoreless first half.
Later, Georgetown regained the lead on a laser strike right past Grinwis. Michigan would eventually force overtime on a late goal by junior midfielder Latif Alashe.
But for the Wolverines, a team that at times has struggled to score goals this season, having another striker that can find the net on a regular basis is a necessity for the young squad. Grinwis’s goalkeeping has kept Michigan in games late, but without multiple offensive weapons, the Wolverines would lack the firepower to keep up with Big Ten foes when conference play begins in two weeks.
As a whole, the team’s forwards are still getting acclimated to the rigors of a packed slate of games. The Wolverines consistently start just one senior, fifth-year midfielder Adam Shaw. The rest of the starting eleven is learning on the fly. Growing pains are to be expected, but Burns counters by asking his forwards to find their way into the box score — just as Miller did Sunday.
“We’re looking for those offensive personalities to step up,” Burns said. “We’re challenging these guys to step up. (Miller’s) definitely welcoming that challenge.”
While it remains to be seen whether Miller can parlay his Sunday toe poke into sustained success up front, surely Pereira will enjoy the peace of mind of knowing he doesn’t have to be the sole provider of the Wolverines’ goals.