Bench players playing key role in Spartans early success
Blake Skamiera has seen the field in all three of the MSU men’s soccer team wins this season — he just hasn’t started there.
The junior forward is part of a group of players that have an important role coming off the bench and giving the players in the starting 11 a much needed break.
“It doesn’t really change my mindset,” Skamiera said. “The only hard part is getting warmed up again. Other than that, I come off the bench and I do what I need to do for the team, and hopefully at the end of the day I can help.”
Of the 360 minutes of action this season, he has been on the field for 75 minutes with three shots and one assist.
The two players Skamiera would substitute for — junior forward Tim Kreutz and junior forward Adam Montague — have a combined two goals, both game winners, and one assist on 22 shots.
“You come out with the same intensity and the same fire that everybody else on the team has, but you kind of know come that 10-or-15 minute mark that there are guys that can come in that are just as good as I am,” Kreutz said.
At the college level, coaches are allowed to make as many subs as needed, which can be an advantage if a player is tired or isn’t performing well.
Head coach Damon Rensing said having the a plan for substitutions is a lot like a depth chart on football.
“There’s a little bit of a rhythm,” Rensing said. “There are some guys like (junior midfielder) Kyle Rutz that can play multiple positions and that can help if he can play up top or wide.”
The Spartans have used pretty much the same rotation of subs all season with Skamiera, Rutz, redshirt freshman defender Jerome Cristobal, senior midfielder Cody Henderson and sophomore midfielder Sean Conerty being the primary players “in the bullpen” for MSU.
Both Henderson and Conerty have found a place in the starting lineup at least once this season because of an injury, a fact Rensing said can knock the rhythm out of sync.
Sometimes Kreutz is subbed out and other times it’s Montague that gets a break, and that all depends on the score and their individual form.
Regardless, Kreutz said it’s his job to work tirelessly for the team while keeping in mind he might get a longer break to refuel.
“You’ve got to look at the beginning of the game the same way if you’re on the bench or if you’re starting,” Kreutz said. “We’ve got guys ready to come in. Come out with that fire and don’t really worry about coming out or going back in.”
Skamiera was a starter for his club and high school teams and knows with the talent on the MSU roster, it’s going to be hard to get on the team sheet.
“Tim and Adam are great forwards, and it’s tough to beat somebody out with their talent and speed,” he said. “They do their job up top and tire the defense for me. You want to come in and do your best. That gives me huge motivation to come in and take a starting spot someday.”