The Michigan men’s soccer team had its chances this weekend to do some damage against Butler and Northern Illinois.
The Wolverines (0-4 overall) outshot their two opponents, 40-16, and registered 11 shots on goal in the pair of games.
But early in the season, it’s quite clear that the team’s problem isn’t a lack of scoring opportunities, but an inability to convert those chances.
Despite Michigan’s myriad of chances, the team mustered just one goal against Butler and was shutout by Northern Illinois. The Wolverines lost the games 2-1 and 1-0.
“I think the way we’re playing shows that we’re able to create chances,” fifth-year senior midfielder Adam Shaw said. “It’s just a matter of putting the ball in the back of the net and just finishing the opportunities when they come.”
Against the Bulldogs on Friday, none of the Wolverines’ opportunities was greater than when sophomore midfielder Fabio Villas Boas Pereira had a chance to equalize the score with less than 20 seconds remaining in the contest. Already with the lone Wolverine goal earlier in the game, Pereira was given a penalty kick after he was tripped in the box.
But, Pereira was unable to convert on the opportunity as Butler’s goalkeeper Andy Holte made an impressive diving save to deny Michigan a chance at overtime.
It was no different against the Huskies, as the Wolverines applied pressure on the defense. Eight different players recorded shots, including a game high of five from Pereira.
Freshman forward Matthew Rickard hit the post around the 29th minute and later missed a header from inside the box with less than 10 minutes remaining. Junior midfielder Latif Alashe hit the upper-left corner of the crossbar on Michigan’s first offensive possession in the second half.
“We’ve just got to keep working hard and training,” Rickard said. “The goal for this week is to try and improve and hopefully (the goals) will come.”
While the Wolverines have appeared unlucky at times, Michigan coach Steve Burns understands that there is more to scoring than good fortune.
“Scoring goals is three things,” Burns said following the loss to Northern Illinois. “One, you’ve got to get a couple of bounces fall for you, and we didn’t today. Then, you’ve got to be able to unlock teams and pack defenses with quick combination play. That’s something that is rehearsed and prepared but everyone has to play predictably.
“And then you’ve got to have courage to strike the ball, be it weak side on your left foot. If you’ve got those half chances or those little 25-percent seams, you’ve got to strike through them.”
Burns recognizes that he has a young and inexperienced squad, and that his players will only continue to learn and grow as the season continues. He expressed that a lot of his players, especially the underclassmen, are still learning how to play both with each other and against their competition, so he’s not worried by the lack of goals.
“I’m not concerned with the lack of scoring because that comes,” Burns said. “That does come and its young guys that are learning how to do that at this level. It takes a little time.”
He did admit that there is a little bit of frustration brewing from Michigan’s winless start and lack of scoring —Burns’s team has scored just two goals in four games despite having outshot every opponent.
“We’ll do our job behind the scenes, and the players will be doing their job behind scenes and we hope it appears on game day,” Burns said.