This is the game that could put the MSU men’s soccer team on the map.
The Spartans (4-1-0 overall) travel to Omaha, Neb. to take on No. 5 Creighton (5-1-0) at 8 p.m. tonight. Creighton is ranked second in the nation by topdrawersoccer.com.
“It’s a huge game for us,” sophomore midfielder Jay Chapman said.
“It’s on the road, so it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a night game, and at a venue like Creighton, everybody’s going to be fired up.”
The Bluejays are coming off a double overtime thriller against No. 7 St. Johns Saturday night that saw them get their first win of conference play.
Chapman said the five days between the Spartans last game and when they take the field against the Bluejays can be beneficial for MSU in some respects, but won’t make them the clear-cut favorites.
“Our legs will be more ready,” he said. “The only advantage of playing a game so close to another one is that we’re all together, and you’re in sync where if you have a couple days off, it’s a little harder to get back into it. Everybody’s been sharp in training and we’ll be ready.”
Creighton’s 2.17 goals per game average makes them one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, and the .76 goals against average is the 37th best mark in the country.
The Bluejays are led by sophomore midfielder Timo Pitter, of Germany, who leads the team with 3 goals and 1 assist on 19 shots.
MSU head coach Damon Rensing said the extra rest built up over the past five days might help at the end of the game, but it’s going to take everything they’ve got to stop Creighton from scoring and earn a third consecutive shutout.
“Creighton’s been playing at a high pace and high level, and are going to be ready to go right from the start,” Rensing said.
“We tweaked things, but it’s more about good one v. one defending as a unit and keeping the game in front (of us).”
MSU lost 2-1 to No. 1 North Carolina in the preseason, and has matchups with powers Akron, Indiana and Notre Dame later in the season, so Rensing said the team knows the type of pedigree they’re preparing to go up against.
The Bluejays have been to the last two Final Fours, and have lost a total of six games over that same time. They last played for a national title in 2000, losing 2-0 to Connecticut. This will be the first-ever meeting between MSU and Creighton.
Chapman said the past two wins against Marquette and Bowling Green have gotten the Spartans in the right mind-set for the rest of the season, but a win tonight could be the icing on the cake.
“Everyone know that Creighton has been to the last two final fours,” Chapman said.
“For us, especially on the road, it will give us that much more to play for and increase our confidence. If we get that win it will be huge and kind of set the tone for the rest of the year.”