EAST LANSING, Mich. - The 10th-ranked Michigan State men's soccer team defeated Southern Methodist University, 1-0, in the first game of the 2014 season thanks to a late goal from senior defender Ryan Keener.
"It's great to start with a win," said head coach Damon Rensing. "Talking to the guys in the locker room, we've been working since January, really 10 months, working up to this game to set the tone for the season. This set the tone."
The competition remained tight throughout the first half, with each team getting two shots on goal. Michigan State totaled four shots on the half from Brian Winterfield, Jason Stacy (two shots) and Fatai Alashe. Stacy led a tough charge from the left wing, often coming one-on-one with the Mustang keeper.
Freshman Jimmy Fiscus earned his first career start, stepping in at left back with the combo of transfer Zach Carroll and captain Ryan Keener. Several fresh faces also made it into the starting lineup, as Ken Krolicki and Brian Winterfield started in the midfield.
"I thought the defense played awesome," said junior goalkeeper Zach Bennett. "They really didn't give up many chances. I can't think of anything that really would have scared me too much. All-in-all, I was really happy with our performance."
The Spartans dominated possession the beginning of the first half, with Jason Stacy setting up a slew of attempts off corners and free kicks. Adam Montague and Keener could be found in the box for most of these, just shy of the goal.
After another stretch of scoreless play, Keener caught a header in the six-yard box off Stacy's corner kick for the goal in the 79th minute of play. This marked Keener's fifth career goal and the first of the 2014 season. Michigan State's offense totaled 15 shots on the day with eight on goal.
"We always talk about that one game," said Keener. "Things have been going well and I thought they could do it, but it's different to see it in action. The thing is we played well defensively. You hold onto your shutout and you give yourself the game. That's what we did."
Centering around the team's tradition of organized defense, the Spartans maintained their lead, despite several finishing attempts from the Mustangs. Bennett tallied four saves on the day for his first shutout of the season.
The Spartans will continue their opening weekend on Sunday, Aug. 31 with a noon game against FIU.