Michigan State men’s soccer (5-0-1) continued its strong start to the season, defeating Oakland University (3-2-1) by a score of 4-2 Monday night at DeMartin Stadium.
The third-ranked Spartans were led by All-Big Ten senior forward Dejuan Jones, who scored twice and assisted on the team's fourth goal to help close the door on a game Golden Grizzlies squad.
“The (confidence level) is really high,” Jones said postgame. “We’re continuing to score goals, we’re doing it in practice. Just playing one-two touch, playing selfless soccer, and the rest will take care of itself."
Jones opened the scoring in the third minute, after he was taken down in the box by two Oakland players, and was awarded a penalty, which he calmly slotted home to the back of the net.
Oakland equalized in the 10th minute, when redshirt freshman defender Alfa Barry’s cross was put home by senior midfielder Jacob Moore, and past Spartan goalkeeper Jimmy Hague.
“I think it’s a credit to our team, for just being resilient after that goal,” junior midfielder Giuseppe Barone said. “I think they had a lot of momentum coming at us, and we just carried on, played our game, and we came out with the win.”
Barone played a ball through the defensive line to Jones in the 32nd minute. Jones put it past Oakland redshirt sophomore goalie Sullivan Lauderdale to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead at halftime.
“We schedule these games on purpose because I think they help prepare us for the Big Ten,” coach Damon Rensing said. “This was very similar to what a Big Ten home match would look like. If you want to win the Big Ten championship, you’ve gotta win Big Ten home games.”
The Spartans were far from in the clear, however, as redshirt junior forward Nebosja Popovic’s shot in the 73rd minute hit his teammate Luke Morrell in the head and bounced past Hague. The goal knotted the teams again at two goals, and led to a thrilling finish.
Freshman forward Farai Mutatu passed the ball back towards Barone in the 77th minute, whose left-footed shot deflected past Lauderdale and gave the Spartans the lead for good.
“It’s soccer, we're gonna be put in those positions, and you’ve gotta trust your leaders and players, that we’re gonna come back and get a game-winning goal, and we did,” Rensing said.
The Spartans added a fourth goal when Jones’ maneuvered past the Golden Grizzlies' goalie and squared a simple ball for senior forward Ryan Sierakowski to sink into the net in the 85th minute.
“I think we were confident the whole way through,” Jones, who now has four goals and an assist in his last two games, said. “When they scored a goal, we stuck to it. We kept fighting and we never gave up, and I’m really proud of the comeback we had today. When they came back, we got the lead back, so I’m happy about that.”
The squad is currently the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the nation.
“I told the guys in the locker room, our first goal is to be the best program in the state,” Rensing said. “I know we’re ranked really high nationally, but we’ve gotta have bragging rights in recruiting.”
The Spartans will go to New Haven, Connecticut Friday to face Yale. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
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