The Michigan men’s soccer team literally fought its way to victory against Cincinnati Wednesday night. The Wolverines proved to be too much for Cincinnati, frustrating the Bearcats to the point of a brawl in the penalty box, before going on to win, 2-0.
After the Wolverines’ second goal, the Bearcats were flustered. Michigan dominated possession, but yellow cards were pulled left and right as the game grew increasingly physical. Toward the end of the game, senior forward Justin Meram found himself in the middle of a scuffle.
“My buddy Dylan (Mencia) was in a headlock and I wanted to separate it,” Meram said after the game. “As a senior, I wanted to break it up. I tried to take him off the guy, and all of a sudden, they were attacking me. But it’s all just part of the game.”
Further showing their frustration, Cincinnati began to fire shots over the goal. As the clock wound down, the Bearcats saw their best offensive opportunity called back for offsides, telling the story of what turned out to be a very discouraging night for the visitors.
Due to a red card and an injury, Michigan was forced to play without their dynamic duo, the Saad brothers. Consequently, the Wolverines (6-2-3) needed other players to step up their game against Cincinnati. Players such as Meram, Fabio Pareira and Dylan Mencia rose to the occasion, leading the Wolverines past the fourth-ranked Bearcat defense.
In the first 25 minutes of the game, the Wolverines came out strong. Although they didn’t tally many shots, they kept Cincinnati on defense and had several opportunities near the box. In the 15th minute of the game, Meram netted a header off of a beautiful set piece from Pereira on what was Michigan’s lone shot on target for the half.
The pace of play quickly changed as the Bearcats began to control possesion, racking up six quick shots after going 15 minutes without one.
“After we scored, we kind of took our foot off of the gas and suddenly they were out-working us,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said.
The Wolverines’ experienced back four was up to the challenge though, keeping the ball out of the net, despite the constant pressure.
Toward the end of the half, Michigan regained momentum and took control of the game, earning another corner and garnering several more opportunities. The half ended with the score 1-0 and the Bearcats outshooting the Wolverines, 6-2.
Michigan showed renewed energy to start the second half, with a lot of pressure from its forwards. This resulted in several opportunities, including a 60th-minute goal by redshirt senior forward Matt Schmitt.
“This is another win for a team that’s a good team,” Burns said. “However, if you know what good soccer is, we didn’t see it out here tonight.”