Wednesday, December 8, 2021

MSU maturing sooner than expected

Alex Difilippo

The No. 17 MSU men’s soccer team is on a roll.

After easily winning both games in this weekend’s Michigan Invitational in Ann Arbor, the Spartans are prepping for a road trip to California for their last two nonconference games before kicking off the Big Ten schedule against Ohio State on Sept. 27 at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.

But there’s still a lot to be learned about the team this weekend before they open up conference play.

The Spartans (3-0-1) easily handled three of the four teams they’ve faced this season. The exception was then-No. 10 Illinois-Chicago, who the Spartans played to an impressive 0-0 draw on the Flames’ home field.

But in that game, emotions were running high for MSU, as Illinois-Chicago eliminated the Spartans from the NCAA Tournament on penalty kicks last season. The Spartans were extremely pumped up for the game and wanted to earn some revenge for last year’s season-ending defeat.

It should be interesting to see if the Spartans can bring that same intensity this weekend when they face Loyola Marymount and San Diego, two high-quality opponents.

Wright State was far from a quality opponent, and the Spartans’ defense wasn’t tested. Surely this weekend they will face more pressure.

Also a contributing factor for the upcoming road trip will be with junior midfielder Nosa Iyoha, who started both games for the Spartans and played limited minutes this weekend. He is getting back into game-shape after missing most of the preseason with a knee injury. With the addition of Iyoha, the Spartans midfield is extremely skilled.

And with the Spartans back line looking strong so far this season, both Ricondo and Thompson have been given a little more freedom to push up and get involved in the attack.

Goal scoring was the biggest area for concern for the Spartans entering the season, but with a goalkeeper like junior Avery Steinlage running the show in the back, the Spartans have the potential to win a handful of games by scoring only one goal.

That takes a lot of the pressure off sophomore forwards Domenic Barone, Mark Barone and Rubin Bega, who have been sharing time up top.

The three underclassmen have looked good in the Spartans’ first four games but were unable to impact the Illinois-Chicago game, with Bega being the only forward to record a shot on goal.

After graduating six starting seniors, this year’s team was thought to be young and inexperienced. But they already are off to a better start than last year’s team, who went 1-3 in their first four games.

If the Spartans can get two more wins this weekend, they will enter Big Ten play riding a big confidence high.

Even if not, it seems as if this team is already meshing well and is way ahead of schedule.

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