Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Men's soccer loses late lead, season on penalty kicks

November 28, 2010

Nine seconds.

The MSU men’s soccer team was a mere nine seconds away from advancing to the Elite Eight before giving up an equalizer to North Carolina forward Enzo Martinez and losing 5-4 in penalty kicks.

“It was just a great college soccer game,” head coach Damon Rensing
said. It was great for those who came to see it.”

Senior midfielder Jeff Ricondo went down with an injury in the first couple of minutes, causing the Spartans to make some adjustments on the fly.

The Spartans (13-7-2) allowed the Tar Heels to control the ball most of the game, but took full advantage of counterattacks to keep the game close and to take the early lead.

Junior midfielder Cyrus Saydee gave MSU a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute on a pass from junior forward Rubin Bega.

Saydee was as efficient as they come in regulation with all three of his shots on goal.

“Cyrus was electric,” Rensing said.

“They had trouble handling him, and he had a great goal.”

MSU maintained a strong defensive presence until the 90th minute, when Martinez was able to curl the ball in the top right of the goal from the left edge of the penalty box.

“They had a couple of good restarts in the last minute,” senior midfielder Spencer Thompson said. “We won the first one and got a save, but unfortunately they were able to get one in with just a few seconds left.”

Steinlage did what he could, saving nine shots on 10 shots-on-goal, but he couldn’t do anything about the Martinez goal.

“Steinlage was incredible,” Rensing said.

“He made incredible saves, managed his box. The last goal was a bang-bang play, 20 guys in the box. To be honest, I don’t think he could have done anything.”

Steinlage said most of the 31 shots weren’t indicative of the way the game was played.

“It didn’t feel like a lot of pressure,” Steinlage said. “Most were from way out and 20 yards wide. But they definitely did have some quality chances.”

The 20 minutes of overtime went by without any major scoring chances by either team.

“It was back and forth,” Thompson said. “We both had chances, but nothing went in.”

The Tar Heels went on to win the game, hitting all five of their penalty kicks, while the Spartans made just four. Saydee’s shot was the only one to be saved when he put the ball left and the UNC goalie Scott Goodwin punched it out.

Martinez nailed the final penalty kick for North Carolina to send them on to the next round.

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“Penalty kicks are just a crap shoot,” Rensing said. “Martinez had a great goal in regulation, but I don’t think it was fitting or anything that he had the last kick.”

Steinlage was nine seconds away from tying the school career record for shutouts but still finished with 22.

“We did great,” he said. “We were just seconds away. We have to take our hats off to North Carolina — they’re a great team.”

The team ended the season with pride, Rensing said.

“It hurts — I feel for these guys,” he said. “But the team really represented the soccer program, Michigan State and the Big Ten.”

The Spartans’ run was historic for the program, advancing past the second round for the first time since 1968.

“Just being here was
phenomenal,” Thompson said. “Getting two wins in the NCAA Tournament this year, it was a little bit unfortunate in my three previous years we couldn’t get a win and this time come up a little bit short.”


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