Michigan State men’s soccer got a critical piece of their team back recently when redshirt junior defender Patrick Nielsen returned from injury. After missing the first seven games of the season, Nielsen made his anticipated comeback in a 3-0 victory at Rutgers. The Copenhagen, Denmark native provides a major boost and veteran presence on the Spartan backend, and has eased his way into playing consistent minutes again.
Nielsen is coming back at a convenient time, as the team is 2-7-3 so far this season and 2-1-1 in conference play. With big matchups against Indiana and Michigan looming, the team has just under a month to get things right before heading into the Big Ten Tournament Nov. 9. Indiana has been the class of the Big Ten thus far, boasting a 4-0-0 record in conference play and an 8-1-3 record overall. The Spartans close out their season against the Hoosiers at home Nov. 3.
Coming into the season, Nielsen was ranked tenth on Top Drawer Soccer Men’s National Top 100 College Soccer Player Rankings list. The green and white had two players inside the top ten on this list, as teammate and fellow captain Giuseppe Barone came in at number six overall. Barone, a senior midfielder, has also been injured this season. He hasn’t been practicing or suiting up for games as of late, so it would appear that it’s unlikely we will see him back on the field soon.
After transferring from the University of Cincinnati, Nielsen was awarded first team All-Big Ten honors in 2018. He started in every game, putting up three goals and two assists while averaging 93.8 minutes per game.
Nielsen was also named to the Hermann Trophy watch list prior to this season. The Hermann Trophy is given out each year to the top male and female soccer players in college. Getting a player of this caliber back for the Spartans is a huge deal, and will take some of the stress off of the underclassmen that have been called upon for larger roles as the season winds down. Head Coach Damon Rensing knows how critical it was to get Nielsen back for the Spartans.
“It feels good,” Rensing said. “You can just (see) his presence out there. There is a reason why he is one of the best center backs in the country. Hopefully we can keep building off of that.”
After making the it to the Final Four of the College Cup last season, it hasn’t exactly been the ideal follow-up season for the green and white. However, everything the team hopes to achieve is still in front of them and getting Nielsen back may be just what the Spartans need. The Big Ten is still relatively even, if the team is able to put up a strong performance in the conference tournament, a return to the College Cup is still possible.
For now, Nielsen and the Spartans will look ahead to Friday, Oct. 19, when the Ohio State Buckeyes come to East Lansing. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.