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Michigan State men’s soccer battles to seventh draw on the season against Drake

October 28, 2023
<p>Senior forward Greyson Mercer (9) running toward fifth-year goalkeeper Kris Shakes (1) as he prepares to kick the ball during a game at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Oct. 1, 2023.</p>

Senior forward Greyson Mercer (9) running toward fifth-year goalkeeper Kris Shakes (1) as he prepares to kick the ball during a game at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Oct. 1, 2023.

The Michigan State Men’s soccer team closed out their regular season on senior celebration night as it hosted Drake. The two sides battled to a 1-1 draw that saw the Spartans pick up their seventh draw on the season.

Head coach Damon Rensing made three changes to his starting lineup. Senior midfielder Jacob Cromer made way for sophomore forward Kyle Schueneman, freshman forward Richie Ludwig was replaced by senior forward Greyson Mercer and sophomore midfielder Cristiano Bruletti was rested for freshman midfielder Colin Arce.

The Spartans looked dangerous immediately. In the second minute, sophomore defender Jeremy Sharp stood over a free kick on the right edge of the 18-yard box clipping a ball into the back post that found Mercer who was unable to finish the chance off.

The Bulldogs quickly responded in the sixth minute when junior forward Erich Legut flashed a ball across the Spartan six-yard box that looked ready to find the Drake man at the back post before freshman defender Will Eby made a crucial intervention to keep the game scoreless.

In the 13th minute, junior midfielder Sean Kerrigan found himself on the right wing, cutting inside to play a quick one-two with sophomore forward Jake Spadafora that saw Kerrigan find some space to fire a left-footed shot from 20 yards out that called on Drake's redshirt sophomore Quinn Millerd to produce a save. 

The Spartans opened the scoring in the 18th minute through the head of Mercer. Sharp stood over a free kick on the right side of the 18-yard box, lifting a cross into the box for Mercer who rose above everyone to give the Spartans a lead. This was the senior's first goal on the season, and fifth with MSU.

After the game, Mercer spoke about what it meant to score on his senior night.

“It means so much," Mercer said. "I hope to contribute a lot more in the post season. I feel like we’re gonna go on a run, we’re gonna go on a tear the next couple of weeks.”

In the 21st minute, it was Mercer again posing questions of the Drake defense. A deep cross found the head of Mercer who directed his effort on target as it looked ready to hit the back of the net before Millerd produced an impressive reflex save.

As the game settled, the Spartans began to dominate possession, consistently rotating the ball and winning it back quickly from the press. It wasn't until the 35th minute that either side saw a sight of another goal. Cromer slipped a pass into the feet of sophomore Jonathan Stout who turned and fired a shot that went flying over the crossbar.

In the 40th minute, the Bulldogs struck against the run of play when they equalized with their second shot on target. A Drake man found himself on the left byline of the Spartan 18-yard box before cutting a cross back to the feet of freshman midfielder Dalton Visconti, who only needed one touch to bring the Bulldogs back level going into the break.

After the match, Resning acknowledged the need to solidify leads more following the Spartans seventh draw of the season.

“I think we got to correct some things and be a little more proactive so we don't always have to push for a tying goal or winning goal,” Rensing said.

The second half found action hard to come by as both defenses came out of the break rejuvenated.

It took until the 64th minute for either side to register a shot on target when graduate midfielder Deng Deng of Drake received the ball in the Spartan 18-yard box taking one touch before rolling a shot towards the bottom right corner that looked ready to nestle into the back of the net, if not for Kelly making a remarkable diving save to keep the Spartans even.

In the 71st minute, the Spartans finally got a sight on goal. A corner kick from Sharp floated into the back post and found the head of senior midfielder Jack Zugay who directed the effort on target, beating Millerd, before being cleared off the line by a Drake defender.

The Spartans found another chance to take the lead in the 75th minute. Sharp whipped a low cross into the 18-yard box that Stout controlled before firing his shot just wide of the top right corner.

Moments later, the Spartans had another chance to equalize. A line-breaking pass from Arce put Schueneman one-on-one with Millerd, but Schueneman pulled his shot wide of the post as the Spartans continued to press for an equalizer.

Rensing said he was very proud of the response from his team.

“In the second half it was all us they just sat in," Rensing said. "(Drake was) playing for a tie … and we just couldn’t break them down."

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The final action of the match came in the 83rd minute when Mercer found a chance to grab the win. A cross from Schueneman dropped right on the top of the six-yard box for Mercer, who beat his man on the jump but lifted his header over the crossbar in the process. 

Friday's match marked the seventh draw of the season. After the match, Rensing said the knockout format will influence the team's approach to the tournament.

“We gotta get ready for penalty kicks, do we change something?" Rensing said. "I think you get a feel for the game on if we need to push for a goal or if it's better for us to tie and get to overtime and reorganize.” 

After closing out their regular season, the Spartans will be back in action for the Big Ten Tournament with the first match set to take place on Nov. 3.

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