Monday, December 5, 2022

Michigan State men's soccer notches second straight win with 1-0 victory over Wisconsin

October 2, 2022
<p>Senior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty (1) makes a save in an MSU and Chicago State University men's soccer game at DeMartin Field on Sept. 12, 2022. The Spartans defeated the Cougars 4-1.</p>

Senior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty (1) makes a save in an MSU and Chicago State University men's soccer game at DeMartin Field on Sept. 12, 2022. The Spartans defeated the Cougars 4-1.

Photo by Jack Patton | The State News

After an impressive victory over Michigan Tuesday night, Michigan State kept the ball rolling with a 1-0 win over Wisconsin Sunday afternoon in East Lansing. 

It wasn’t the prettiest of matches. Wisconsin outshot and out-possessed the Spartans, finishing with more corners, more shots on goal and some quality scoring opportunities. However, MSU found a way to grind out the win.

Graduate student midfielder Louis Sala scored the lone goal of the match for the Spartans near the end of the first half. 

“It was a gutsy effort," Head Coach Damon Rensing said. "I’m not going to tell you that was our best soccer performance of the year, but we had a tough week. ... We scored a goal and found a way to keep a shutout.”

Senior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty, a Michigan transfer, had another good day between the sticks, finishing with five saves and earning his third clean sheet of the season and second in as many games.

Michigan State’s defenders also played a part in the clean sheet. While Wisconsin had multiple scoring opportunities in high-danger areas, the Spartan defense consistently battered and swarmed their opponents, frustrating the Badgers’ forwards by keeping play choppy. 

“We’re ecstatic that we’re able to really have confidence in the fact that we can keep shutouts now,” junior defender Elijah Howe said. “The rest of the league should be worried to try to break the team down."

Wisconsin controlled the pitch through the first 45 minutes. The Badgers had six total shots and two shots on goal. On the other hand, Michigan State had just two shots and no shots on goal at the half. However, some great defending from the Spartan defenders kept the match scoreless through halftime. Every time the Badgers managed to infiltrate the box, Finnerty and his defenders quickly managed to eliminate the danger by knocking the ball away. 

Despite the uneven possession, it was Michigan State that found the back of the net first. 

Corralling the ball to the right of Wisconsin’s penalty box, junior midfielder Jack Zugay passed the ball to Sala. Centered in front of the net, he ripped a point-blank shot to take a 1-0 lead just a couple of minutes before halftime. 

“We were so bad in that first half,” Rensing said. “To get a goal was probably a bit fortunate.”

The second half was a bit cleaner for Michigan State, but Wisconsin still applied plenty of pressure on the Spartans' back line. 

Still, MSU’s defenders stood tall, knocking away and clearing the ball every time it entered a high-danger area. Finnerty made a couple of essential saves in the final 20 minutes to keep the goose egg on the scoreboard, and Michigan State escaped with the win. 

Riding high on two straight conference victories, the Spartans' resolve will be tested this Friday with a road game against Penn State. 

“They’re a nationally ranked team at the moment and obviously a class outfit,” Howe said. “We’re high on confidence, but we’ve got to not let our guard down really just go into that all guns blazing.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the match will be streamed via BTN Plus. 

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