Michigan State University men’s soccer was unable to continue the late-game heroics they displayed Friday night, finishing 0-0 against the University of Tulsa on Sunday afternoon at Demartin Soccer Stadium. The Spartans, who had opened the season with a 1-0 victory over South Florida just 48 hours prior, could not find the net against a physical Tulsa team.
“We’d like to get some goals scored,” senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague said. “I think we played pretty well as a team, made some mistakes offensively, but sometimes just being a little bit lazy. We gotta clear that up, but that’s just gonna come with more games.”
The Spartans were a bit rusty in the opening minutes, allowing Tulsa sophomore forward Thomas Wells a 1-on-1 chance with Hague in the 15th minute. His left-footed shot careened off the face of the senior goalkeeper and he was down for a few minutes before he continued.
“I think the real credit to a big-time goalie is, Jimmy didn’t get tested a ton tonight, but the time he needed to come up, he did,” Head Coach Damon Rensing said of Hague’s full-body first-half save.
Freshman forward Farai Mutatu was the hero on Friday night with goal in the 87th minute, but he missed a chance to score in the 24th minute of Sunday's game.
“I think it does really help me grow,” Mutatu said. “Obviously, not everything is sunshine and rainbows every game, so it was awesome that we got the victory on Friday, but obviously it’s really kind of disappointing that we couldn’t get the win today. Credit to Tulsa for coming out and playing well, but we can do better, for sure.”
The Golden Hurricane committed 23 fouls and received three yellow cards, after a Friday night win against the University of Michigan in which seven yellow cards were issued.
“I think you start to press a little bit, and the tendency when you press is, ‘I wanna help, I wanna help,’ and you’ve gotta trust your teammates and move the ball a little bit,” Rensing said. “I think if you dribble a lot, you bring contact onto yourself. We put ourselves in some of those physical moments. If you just move the ball quickly, that helps.”
“They’re pretty physical, but the Big Ten is also physical,” Hague said. “We kind of knew what it was going to be like, so we were ready for it. The game was definitely a little bit slower paced, especially in the heat, with two games in 48 hours.”
As the game continued, the Spartans grew into it, creating the lion’s share of the chances in the second half, and into the two overtime periods. Four of the 12 Spartan corner kicks on the day came in the second overtime period alone. Two defenders had chances in a corner kick scrum in the 102nd minute, but Tulsa goalkeeper Cooper Clark saved redshirt freshman defender Nick Woodruff’s header as well as senior defender John Freitag’s rebound half-volley.
The team was frustrated but hopeful postgame.
“It’s early, the beginning of the season,” Mutatu said. “We have some of the best attacking players in the country right now — DeJuan Jones, Ryan (Sierakowski) — I trust those guys as our seniors, and even other guys as well. I think that we can score more goals throughout the season, as we keep trusting each other and leading each other.”
Rensing said while the team did not play as well as they should have, he has confidence in them.
“We played two very good teams that can really let you know where you’re at,” Rensing said. “I told the guys, if we play like we did against South Florida, I’ll take this team and play against anybody, anywhere in the country. It’s a very good team. So when we are a little lackluster today, it shows you that any team in the country can come in and beat us, so it’s a good learning environment this weekend.”
The clean sheet was Hague’s 20th of his Spartan career, fifth all-time amongst Spartan goalkeepers.
“It means a lot,” Hague said of his accomplishment. “But it’s a lot of credit to the guys in front of me. I can’t get my clean sheets without all ten guys in front of me busting their ass for me.”
The Spartans take on Canisius at 3 p.m. Aug. 31, at Demartin Soccer Stadium.
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