Playing with a man down yesterday, the Michigan men’s soccer team could have rolled over against Ohio State.
Sliding all over the soggy U-M Soccer Field, the Wolverines could have buried their faces in the mud.
Winless in its last eight games, the team could have thrown in the towel.
But instead, the Wolverines clawed their way through the elements until the bitter end – a 0-0 tie after double overtime.
“When you are playing with a man down and have the elements against you, they are challenges you have to respond to,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “It’s similar to euchre. When you and your partner have decent cards but not great cards, you just have to play those cards to the best of your ability and see if you can get a goal. I think our guys played their cards great.”
At 28:25, freshman Julian Robles was slapped with a red card after breaking up a Buckeyes breakaway. The foul forced Michigan to play the rest of the game at a one-man disadvantage.
Even with the harsh penalty, the Wolverines were resilient.
“I think they responded great,” Burns said. “They brought the emotion. They brought the attitude. They brought the intensity. That’s what has to be done not only against a strong conference opponent like Ohio State but any conference opponent.”
On the defensive end, Michigan (5-9-4 overall, 0-2-3 Big Ten) was all over the Buckeyes like bees to honey. Despite a stretch of earning four consecutive corner kicks in the second half, Ohio State (7-6-3, 2-2-1) was unable to break through the Wolverine wall. Michigan goalkeeper Patrick Sperry showed no fear in coming out of the net to challenge the Buckeyes on the restarts, notching five saves on the day.
“The only concern we had about Ohio State was their corner kicks,” Burns said. “We talked in the locker room about what the assignments were and the intensity we needed to have. The whole bench was bouncing up and down, yelling and creating that energy any time Ohio State had a corner kick. On the field, we responded in the same way.”
Energized from several defensive stands, the Wolverines stepped up their attack.
With just over 18 minutes left in the second half, sophomore Steve Bonnell carried the ball down the left side of the field on a breakaway. Bonnell found sophomore Nader Jarun at the top of the 18-yard box, and Jarun sent the ball to the feet of leading scorer Peri Marosevic. The freshman turned to take a shot, but sent the ball straight into the arms of Buckeye goalkeeper Casey Latchem.
“Ohio State is a team that is going to get their chances off of restarts,” Burns said. “We aren’t like that. I think we created some chances where we had some good looks in front of net. We’re getting close to putting those in.”
Tied at zero at the end of regulation, the game was sent into overtime. On a corner kick from sophomore Jake Stacy, fellow sophomore Michael Holody jumped up for the header, but Latchem made the save.
After neither team could convert, the gridlocked contest extended into a second overtime – the Wolverines’ fifth this season.
Marosevic earned another scoring opportunity on the right post in this frame, but Latchem denied the rookie his glory. The game ended in another scoreless effort for the Wolverines.
With just one game remaining before the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan is not about to bow out, with yesterday’s battle as case in point.
“You are definitely tired after playing a game with a man down,” senior Bobby Trybula said. “But this team plays with adversity. It’s the way it has been going this season. You just have to deal with it.”