In one of its last home showings and with the goal of gaining a spot in the NCAA Tournament in mind, the Michigan men’s soccer team braved the wind and rain to battle the University of Detroit Mercy. The game was by no means an easy one and nerves were high at the end, but the Wolverine offense dominated from the moment it first stepped on the field, winning by a final score of 2-1.
Coming off a victory over Valparaiso on Saturday, the Wolverines (2-2-1 Big Ten, 7-8-1 overall) wanted to keep the tempo up at home. Earning another win was important not only to secure a better standing, but also in preparation for next Saturday’s game against Michigan State.
“I think any local game is a big sense of pride,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “I think for us, we beat Oakland, we beat Detroit, the last hurdle is Michigan State.”
The competitive tone had a definite impact on gameplay for both teams, and from the start the atmosphere at the U-M Soccer Complex was tense.
The Wolverines maintained possession for the majority of the first half and it was clear the Titans were frustrated. After Michigan’s first three shots on goal, Titan midfielder Adam Bedell was issued a yellow card for diving.
Michigan earned 10 fouls and a yellow card during the game but Detroit lead the game in penalties — it finished with nine fouls, a yellow card, and three red cards, issued to defender Patrick Soltys and two of Detroit’s coaches.
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Tyler Arnone said he thought that Michigan responded well under the pressure of such a hectic and emotionally charged game.
“I think the game got out of hand today, but that’s something to expect,” Arnone said. “Both teams wanted to win, and our season was kind of on the line, but as long as we’re mature and keep our cool, that’s really it.”
They did keep cool. Though Michigan outshot Detroit in the first half (10-2), the Titans were able to capitalize initially with a goal by Jason Leslie in the 41st minute of play. The Wolverines came back and settled the ball quickly, keeping the pressure on the Titans defense and forcing a corner in the 45th minute.
Arnone lofted a long ball over to the far side of the goal, setting up a shot by midfielder Latif Alashe, which was stopped by an intentional hand ball on the Titans defense. This prompted a red card for Soltys and a penalty kick for Arnone with 13 seconds left to play in the first half. He buried the ball in the back of the net to tie the game at one before the half.
“We practice those type of situations all the time, so when that situation comes I am well prepared for it,” Arnone said. “It’s just routine for me, so I keep my nerves cool and just do what I know.”
Michigan knew the benefit of being up a player when it stepped back on the field for the last 45 minutes of play, but the teams strategy hadn’t changed.
“We wanted to continue to put our foot on the pedal, we thought we did that the first half,” Daley said. “All we did was impress upon our guys not to relax, keep the tempo high (and) stick at it. We did, created a ton of chances, if we stuck some of those away we would have been a lot more comfortable at the end, we didn’t.”
The Wolverines had opportunity after opportunity and finally seized one in the 65th minute of play when freshman midfielder James Murphy pounded the ball into the net off a rebound from Arnone, giving Michigan the lead.
Though Detroit was able to put the pressure on in the last minute of play with five shots on goal, the Wolverines held on and came out on top, adding another victory to their four-match home stand and going into the upcoming Michigan State game on an emotional high.