If the Michigan men’s soccer team is at its best form of the young season — and seeing as the Wolverines (2-4-1) are unbeaten in their last three games, that seems to be the case — good fortune has it that its biggest test is next.
When the team travels to South Bend on Friday to take on No. 22 Notre Dame, Michigan coach Steve Burns hopes his squad has learned quickly enough — from its dismal start and its positive results of late — to pass.
“Notre Dame is a very good team,” Burns said Wednesday. “We know that their game is going to pose some problems for us.”
The Fighting Irish (2-1-2) are entering a treacherous portion of their schedule with a visit to Michigan State later this weekend followed by a tilt with national power Louisville on September 24.
With those matches, as well as Big East play lying ahead, Notre Dame knows it can’t afford to make mistakes similar to the ones the Fighting Irish made in a double-overtime loss to Saint Louis — their lone defeat thus far.
But, like Notre Dame, Michigan’s success of late has opponents struggling to figure out its tactics. With just two more non-conference battles before Big Ten opponents begin filling the schedule, the Wolverines are playing much more confidently than they did to start the season — when goals were hard to come by.
In fact, Michigan is coming off of its highest scoring output of the season in a 4-1 win over Detroit on Wednesday. During that match, junior forward Etienne Lussiez scored his first career goal. And second. And third.
Burns doesn’t think the Wolverines need to look far to find an opponent that parallels the Fighting Irish’s intensity and physicality — traits that have them picked to finish second in the Big East’s Blue Division. Rather, a team that Michigan drew last week is comparable.
“They’re a lot like Georgetown but they probably have a little more depth,” Burns said. “They’ve got a great midfielder and a legitimate four up front.”
Michigan goalkeeper Adam Grinwis will be tasked with stopping that talented Notre Dame attack. Junior midfielder Dillon Powers, in particular, can cause significant problems roaming the center of the pitch.
On the other end, it seems that opportunities to get past Fighting Irish senior netminder Will Walsh will be few. So when a chance does present itself for the Wolverines — whether via a sophomore midfielder Fabio Villas Boas Pereira strike or a sophomore forward Malcolm Miller run — Michigan simply has to take advantage.
“They don’t give up a lot of chances,” Burns said.