It was Alumni Day Sunday at DeMartin Soccer Stadium, as Michigan State men's soccer honored its 1968 National Championship team. The current team was unable to deliver a victory for their fellow alumni, as the fifth-ranked Spartans (8-1-2, 2-1 in Big Ten) were handed their first loss of the season at the hands of Wisconsin (5-4-1, 2-1) by a score of 1-0 in overtime.
“We just weren’t sharp honestly, from back to front,” said coach Damon Rensing after the game. “Wisconsin’s an organized team and if you want to break those teams down you’ve got to be sharp, and we just weren’t. We didn’t test their goalie the way we normally do. We got into some deep spots, but we didn’t really have any teeth to our offense.”
The last time the two teams faced off, the result ended in a 1-1 double overtime tie on a rainy and windy day in Madison. The Spartans and Badgers would face similar conditions this time around in East Lansing, as they played through windy, overcast conditions Sunday afternoon.
MSU has struggled to produce on offense in the first half of games this season, as just five of their 22 goals this season have came before half time. And that trend would continue against the Badgers, as the offense failed to convert on five shots in the first period. The two teams would head into the half tied at zero.
“We got some good early crosses in,” senior forward DeJuan Jones said on his team’s production in the first half. “A couple shots, I think four or five shots on target in the first half. So just keep working and finishing in the box in practice and then just translate it to the game.”
The Spartans would come out of halftime looking for a change of luck, but continued to struggle to get much going. In fact, neither team would get anything cooking in the second half, as play would head into overtime following a scoreless regulation period.
Michigan State came out as the aggressors in overtime, but was still unable to get one past the Wisconsin goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy. With the clock winding down and just under three minutes left in the extra period, The Badgers were able to end the scoring drought, as forward Alex Alfaro’s shot found the net, and securing the walk-off win for his club.
“We just need to self-assess,” Rensing said. “Go look at the video, put this game behind us and realize we’ve had eight good wins and one loss... get back to work and figure out what we can do to create some more offense and we’ve got to be tighter defensively too.”
Though the Spartans ultimately lost the game, Jones is confident his team can learn from it.
“I think our confidence is still high,” Jones said. “I thought we played a good game. A couple unlucky bounces there towards the end of the game, which cost us the game ultimately, but we’re just going to learn from this experience and keep moving forward.”
The Spartans will return to action Friday evening as they head to College Park to take on Maryland (4-3-2, 2-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Ludwig Field.
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