Michigan State men’s soccer concluded their season-opening homestand Monday with a 5-1 victory over the University of California-Riverside Highlanders. Senior forward Ryan Sierakowski notched two goals, and senior Hunter Barone recorded a goal and an assist. After a late slip-up Friday against Canisius in which the Spartans nearly coughed away a 3-0 lead, there would be no such mistake on Monday.
“Against Canisius, we played very well for 75, 80 minutes, and then we gave up those two goals, and that was very disappointing,” Sierakowski said. “Our main focus for this game, we wanted to play a full 90, not giving up anything ... I thought we did that.”
Redshirt freshman defender Nick Woodruff won the ball in the 21st minute to Hunter Barone, who chipped the defensive line, allowing Sierakowski to be all alone with the keeper. He calmly rolled it into the left side of the goal to open the scoring.
“The first one was a counter,” Barone said. “Woodruff made a nice play to win the ball, and I saw Ryan make a nice through run. He had a lot of time to finish that one, but it was a good finish.”
Team pressure created the second goal, when sophomore midfielder Michael Miller fired in a low cross that Barone redirected past the keeper in the 58th minute. Then, the rout was on.
“When you share the ball, lots of people will score, even yourself if you’re one of those forwards,” coach Damon Rensing said. “You’re gonna get chances, and that leads to chances for ... other players. It was great to see some other guys get credit for really a good team performance.”
Sierakowski finished off a flick pass from Barone’s younger brother Giuseppe in the 64th minute, as the Spartans swarmed the ball after a turnover. Senior right back John Freitag tapped in from five yards out just a minute later, as the younger Barone again created the play.
“That’s a big motto for our team, playing selflessly,” Sierakowski said. “We know whenever someone has the ball, if you make a run, they’re going to find you ... that shows with how many people are getting on the stat sheet with assists and goals.”
Freshman midfielder Jack Beck fired in a long-range fifth goal in the 80th minute. UC Riverside’s Daniel Aguirre pulled one back and scored in the 86th, but by then, the Spartans were in cruise control.
“To our guys’ credit, they moved the ball, I thought we really didn't give up hardly any chances, and created several,” Rensing said.
The Spartans go on the road for the first time on Friday when they travel to play Bowling Green.
“My guess is it’ll be rocking and rolling down there, they get some good crowds on a Friday night, so it’ll be a very good test for our guys,” Rensing said.
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