The energy of a rivalry matchup filled the brisk East Lansing air as No. 12 Michigan State soccer tied with University of Michigan Tuesday night at DeMartin Soccer Stadium. The intensity was expected of top-25 in-state rivals battling for the Big Bear, which ended in a 1-1 overtime slugfest.
“You kind of try to downplay it at times, and then all of the sudden you get within 24 hours of the game and you can’t downplay it. It’s just Michigan-Michigan State,” Coach Damon Rensing said after the game. “You could just feel the intensity in warmups. You could feel it out here. You knew one play either way could change it and that’s what makes it such a special rivalry and probably the best rivalry in Big Ten soccer.”
After ten minutes of stagnation perpetuated by two solid defensive units, it was the Wolverines attack applying the pressure early in the first half. Senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague was forced to come up to the top left corner of the box to challenge and save a shot by forward Lucas Rosendall.
He later made a diving save to his right, also on Rosendall. A nearly perfect strike to the top right corner by defender Marcello Borges caused Hague to make a jumping punch on the ball to keep the score nodded at zero. In the 16th minute after an MSU giveaway, forward Jack Hallahan fired U-M's best opportunity of the half, rattling the crossbar above Hague.
The Spartans began to control the pace after the near-goal scare. In the 21st minute, senior forward Dejuan Jones showcased his footwork as he weaved through defenders at the top of the box and directed a shot just wide of the right post. Fellow senior forward Hunter Barone took after Jones, eluding defenders before firing a shot just over the crossbar two minutes later.
MSU seemingly broke through in the 29th minute, as Jones’ shot that rattled the back of the net was nullified by sophomore defender Patrick Nielsen’s foul. The Spartans’ intensity did not waver, though. Senior defender John Freitag pushed yet another shot wide of the right post.
Despite the late-half push by the Spartans, the Wolverines' back line was able to send the match into the half tied at zero.
Regaining their momentum fostered late in the half, the Spartan attack struck early in the second half. Freshman midfielder Jack Beck capitalized on a lapse in U-M's back line, as a crucial giveaway allowed Beck to send a shot past U-M goalkeeper Henry Mashburn, allowing the Spartans to take a decisive 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute.
“I don’t mind, obviously, coming off the bench, bringing a new energy to the field,” Beck explained. “I let the starters get out there and I just hope to come out on the field and raise the level.”
The Wolverines started to show signs of desperation, as forward Umar Farouk Osman picked up a yellow card just a minute later.
The Spartans then started to play back, taking a defensive-minded approach to retain their one goal lead. U-M began to dominate possession, however, eventually creating another scare for MSU. From a corner kick in the 68th minute, defender Jackson Ragen took a shot through heavy traffic in the Spartans’ box following the cross. The Spartans were fortunate for the crowded box on a shot that would have otherwise resulted in a goal. Jack Hallahan later tested the Spartans again in the 77th minute on a header that was easily handled by Hague.
One minute later, a questionable foul call on freshman forward Farai Mutatu would provide the breakthrough the Wolverines were seeking. Forward Noah Kleedtke found the ball through traffic off the free kick and put in the back of the net, tying the game at 1 goal a-piece.
Jones proceeded to dazzle the East Lansing crowd with a dribble between the legs of a U-M defender, setting up a Mutatu cross that trickled just wide of the left post in the 82nd minute.
A minute later, after being roughly fouled and drawing a yellow card, junior midfielder Giuseppe Barone fooled Wolverine defenders with a cross pass, allowing for a Jones shot that was deflected out.
“You kind of expect a game like this to be physical – Michigan-Michigan State – especially with this atmosphere,” Beck added. “We just tried to play through it and tried to not make that affect us, but just play our game.”
Barone was fouled yet again in the final minute. His dangerous direct cross off the hands of Mashburn was the final opportunity the Spartans could make before regulation was ended at 1-1.
Freitag’s cross deep in the box two minutes into overtime slipped out of the reach of multiple MSU forwards and into the hands of Mashburn. Mutatu rifled a shot from the top of the box that was also stopped by a diving Mashburn a minute later.
As Jones took a fast-break toward the top of the box in the 98th minute, defender Jackson Ragen committed yet another yellow card foul, preventing a one-on-one opportunity for Jones with Mashburn.
Toward the end of a stagnant 2nd overtime period with each side attempting to contain the other, Patrick Nielsen came up with a crucial tackle at the top of the box to secure the draw.
“I think at the end of the day you just have to be happy with how the players played and what their mindset was, and they played to win the game and they did all the right things that we asked of them,” Rensing said. “Some games you win and you don’t feel good about. This game we tied and I feel good about where our team’s at and how we played.”
The Spartans travel to Bloomington to face No. 2 Indiana Sunday to close out the regular season.
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