It doesn’t get any easier from here.
The No. 17 Spartans (8-2-2 overall, 1-1-1 Big Ten) head to Akron, Ohio to take on No. 18 Akron (10-3-0) tonight at 7 p.m.
Head coach Damon Rensing said the Zips are a good possession team, and that’s where they can be the most dangerous.
“You’ve got to be okay with not having the ball for a little bit,” Rensing said. “You’ve got be patient. Akron get (the ball) back and they keep it and teams get frustrated. You’ve got to possess too and you can’t punish them. It’s a fine line, but you’ve got to be able to do both things. You need good soccer players to make those plays.”
MSU and Akron have faced off every year since the 2009, and the Spartans are 1-3-0 in that time. Akron leads the all-time series 26-11-1.
Akron defeated MSU 1-0 in East Lansing that year. The Spartans returned the favor in 2011 when they ended Akron’s 48 game home unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory.
After a disappointing 2-1, double overtime loss to Big Ten leaders No. 13 Penn St. Sunday afternoon, junior forward Adam Montague said the team wants to use this game as a rebound.
“We don’t have to sit around and think about that loss,” Montague said. “It’s a quick turn around, hopefully getting Penn St. out of our minds. We’ve got a good, tough stretch coming up and we’ve got to be prepared for every one of these games.”
Including Akron, two of the next three games are on the road against teams that won an NCAA national championship in the last three years. Indiana are defending National Champions as well.
Like MSU, Akron relies heavily on their defense. They rank 9th in the nation with a .58 goals against average, and are 11th with a shutout percentage of .54.
Junior midfielder Fatai Alashe said the Akron game is always a game he gets excited for, and it’s always a fun environment to play in.
“When there’s that many people in the stadium, there’s just a different energy around the game,” Alashe said. “They always have a lot of fans and a good supporters group. They’re cheering even if it’s not for you. You just want to prove that you’re better.”
Rensing said the bottom line is that Akron is a very good team, and it’s important to get back to their winning ways after the loss on Sunday.
But he knows he has the players that have been in the tough games and won in the tough environment before.
“This team isn’t accustomed to losing,” Rensing said. “We’ve got to take the air out of the ball early in the game, but then just play. We’ve got a lot of guys that have played a lot of big games, so they’ll relish the opportunity. We’ll be ready to go.”