Following a heartbreaking loss at Wisconsin on Saturday, the Michigan men’s soccer team traveled to Akron, Ohio on Tuesday night in search of its first road victory.
But the road struggles continued for the Wolverines (1-2-1 Big Ten, 4-6-1 overall), as they fell to the Zips, 1-0. The Wolverines were outshot 9-2 and committed 15 fouls against the crafty Akron offense.
“We played an extremely tough road schedule,” said Michigan assistant coach Tommy McMenemy. “We don’t have the Michigan Ultras behind us but performance-wise, there hasn’t been any let down.”
No. 3 Akron (4-0 MAC, 9-1-2 overall) has been unstoppable lately, winning its past seven matches while outscoring its opponents 21-0. The perennial power in collegiate men’s soccer seems to be doing everything right in the heart of its season.
During the Zips seven-game winning streak, they have created ample scoring chances and have showcased the nation’s best defense. Akron used that same formula to wear down the Wolverines.
Wasting no time, Akron junior midfielder Aodhan Quinn slid a ball past redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Adam Grinwis in the 13th minute to give Akron the one-goal advantage.
“We were a little bit careless in our possession,” McMenemy said. “It was always gonna be an uphill battle. (We) need to learn how to take care of the ball. We made some adjustments after the goal, and I think we made a very good response.”
The Wolverines managed several chances from the wings, but those opportunities ended with headers that rolled wide left and wide right. Just before halftime, Michigan had its best chance when a header from junior forward Malcolm Miller struck the crossbar.
A minute later, the referees may have ended Michigan’s chance for an upset in Akron. Senior defender Brian Klemczak was shown a red card for a hard challenge during the Zips’ quick transitional attack. The half ended with Akron leading 1-0.
In the second half, Michigan had even more to overcome with just 10 men on the field. The Wolverines came out with energy and a chip on their shoulder, but Akron still proved to be too much.
“They have an incredible home support, (and) when you go down a man you don’t make life easy for yourself,” McMenemy said. “We don’t make excuses, and we don’t believe in moral victories. I don’t think you’ll find many teams who played Akron that well with 10 men though.”
McMenemy was spot on regarding his team’s performance in the final 45 minutes. Michigan hit the woodwork yet again, adding several scoring chances from corner kicks as the game progressed.
Though Michigan headed back to Ann Arbor with a loss, there were positives to be found. The shorthanded Wolverines shut out the Zips in the second half. For 45 minutes, Michigan may very well have outplayed one of the nation’s top programs with 10 men.
“We were very threatening in set pieces,” McMenemy said. “The way the boys followed the game plan and the adjustments, it’s very heartening that they can execute instructions the way they did. You cant do anything without an incredible work ethic, and I think that’s what gives us the most hope going up against Indiana.”