Coming off a 1-1 double overtime draw against rival Michigan in the final home game of the regular season Oct. 23, the 12th-ranked MSU men’s soccer team has one game left on its schedule, against second-ranked Indiana, before heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten tournament in November.
MSU ranks second in the Big Ten, trailing the Hoosiers. The Spartans have cooled off a bit after a hot start – they didn’t earn their first loss until 14 games in against Wisconsin Sept. 30 – winning just two of their last six games including two home losses against Wisconsin and Akron.
Coach Damon Rensing’s club has statistically been one of the more sound offensive teams in the Big Ten this season, as they rank second in total goals (28), shots (209), points (90) and assists (34). They’ve been stellar on the defensive end, allowing just 13 goals through 16 games, good for third best in the conference.
But there is one thing the Spartans need to work on before they head into postseason play.
“Just continuing to work on stuff in front of the goal,” senior forward DeJuan Jones said after MSU’s 0-0 double-overtime draw against Northwestern last Friday. “(We’re) not sharp enough. We had some good chances, so we’ve just got to work on finishing those chances.”
According to Rensing, it may be a lack of aggression on the offensive end that is causing the team to have minimal success on scoring attempts in recent games. The Spartans created 13 shots against the Wolverines but only registered a single goal, and went scoreless against the Wildcats despite creating 22 shots.
“I don’t know if we’re pressing,” Rensing said after Northwestern. “We certainly had more than enough chances, you had 22 shots … We needed to be better on the attack.”
The Spartans have compiled just four goals on 61 shots in their last four games. Their lack of offensive production over that stretch has been uncharacteristic considering their season average of just under two goals per game on about 13 shots.
“We probably have to work on a little finishing and put the ball in the net,” Rensing said. “That’s really all this group’s got to do. I think the confidence and stuff will come from it. It will come, we’ve gotta keep working on it.”
Rensing knows opposing teams aren’t going to aid the Spartans in finding their groove on offense.
“Teams are going to be more organized, they’re harder to break down, they’re more into it … All you can do is look at creating some chances,” Rensing said.
MSU has just over a week left to get ready for the Big Ten Tournament, and if the standings were to remain the same after Sunday’s match up at Indiana, the Spartans would head into the tournament as a No. 2 seed, as Indiana already clinched the top seed.
This gives MSU an incentive to finish the regular season off with a win, but either way, Rensing is confident his team will be in good position come tournament time.
“I think this tie (against U-M) probably locked up a quarterfinal top four host,” Rensing said after his team’s draw against the Wolverine. “I was a communications major here, so my math isn’t great … but I do think we’ve got a pretty good chance to host here.”
The Big Ten tournament kicks off for the Spartans Nov. 4. The start time depends on standings at the end of the regular season.