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Solid defense key for No. 19 MSU men's soccer team

September 14, 2010

Junior midfielder Cyrus Saydee pushes the ball up the field. The Spartans defeated Niagra 4-1 on Sunday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.

Photo by Katy Joe DeSantis | The State News

For the No. 19 MSU men’s soccer team, the best offense is a good defense.

During the team’s weekend home stand, the Spartans gave up just one goal and scored eight in a 4-0 win Thursday against Providence and a 4-1 win Sunday against Niagara.

Without the stout defense though, the offense couldn’t really get clicking, head coach Damon Rensing said.

“The most important thing is the defending,” Rensing said. “We gave up a late goal (against Niagara), but that was a little bit unfortunate. For the most part, I think we defended really well on the weekend. So that was good and we created chances off that defense and goals are coming from a lot of different places, so that’s the other positive.”

After giving up seven goals in the season-opening weekend in a 4-3 victory at Maryland and 4-0 loss at Georgetown, the players have gotten back on track, Rensing said

“I think it’s a mentality, defending is a mentality,” he said. “You’re never going to play perfect soccer, but you can always defend and work together. And I think we kind of got away from that against Georgetown (last) Sunday and we refocused the mentality.”

Two starting defenders, senior Colin Givens and junior Kevin Cope, are at the heart of the defense, Rensing said.

“Colin and Kevin do such a good job back there that I just think we take them for granted sometimes,” he said. “They make the game for (senior goalie Avery Steinlage) and the guys in front of them a lot easier. They can handle pretty much whatever is thrown at them, athletically or soccer-wise.”

Rensing said the games start conservatively and counterattacks turn into scoring chances.

The 2009 men’s soccer team was defense-oriented and the returning experience has lead to more goal-scoring opportunities off the pressing defense, senior midfielder and co-captain Spencer Thompson said.

“I don’t think we’ve had an offensive season like this so far. We’re just getting goals when the chances come,” Thompson said. “We have a lot of players back from last year, so we have a lot of confidence in that and a lot of senior leadership.”

Fresh legs

Despite returning 10 starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team, the team has been playing a trio of freshmen consistently in its 3-1 start to the season.

Freshmen defenders Wesley Curtis and Josh Barens were in the starting lineup in the past weekend’s games against Providence and Niagara and freshman forward/midfielder Tim Kreutz is getting called in off the bench on a regular basis. Rensing said it’s all about who performs best.

“We’ve got a good returning core of players, but we just play the best players at their positions,” he said.

“Josh and Wesley came into camp ready and sharp and they worked hard to earn those spots. At the end of the day, we’re going to play the best players who are going to give us the best chance to win and that’s what they’ve done well with right now.”

The freshmen mesh with the team’s chemistry, Thompson said.

“They’re all doing amazing,” he said. “Wesley and Barens are starting and haven’t missed a beat, providing for us, creating for us. It’s awesome to see someone of that age to do that well. And Tim’s speed off the bench is just a force to be reckoned with in the corner.”

Senior leader

After a self-proclaimed weak opening weekend on the East Coast, Thompson is beginning to get back on track.

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In the first two games, the midfielder had one assist. In the weekend’s home stand, Thompson scored twice and assisted on another three goals.

Rensing said he was happy to see his captain get back fully on track.

“Spencer wasn’t as sharp by his standards out in D.C.,” he said. “But I thought he was pretty good on Thursday and then he really started to click today, hopefully for the season.”

Senior midfielder and co-captain Jeff Ricondo said the team goes as Thompson goes.

“Spencer is a guy who gets the ball every five or six touches, so he’s a crucial part of the game controlling the middle,” Ricondo said. “So for him to play well helps us out immensely as a whole.”


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