Oct. 6, 2013
WATCH: Spartans' Game-Winning Goal
EAST LANSING, Mich. – With a dramatic final-minute goal in double overtime, the Michigan State men’s soccer team defeated No. 5 Northwestern, 3-2 in Evanston, Ill., on Sunday afternoon. After earning a win in its first Big Ten game of the season, MSU improved their overall record to 7-1-1. The Wildcats, who were atop the Big Ten standings, fall to 7-3-0 on the season and 1-1-0 in the Big Ten.
“I think all the credit goes to our players,” said head coach Damon Rensing. “They deserve this game. I thought they played well. They dealt with some adversity within the game, but never gave up and it’s a credit to our guys. I said going into the game that they are the two-time defending regular-season champs, so if we want to challenge for the title and put ourselves in a position at the end of this season, it goes through Evanston. Winning in the Big Ten itself is hard enough, but to win in the Big Ten on the road is even harder. So for us to do that is a great result.”
Michigan State came out blazing with Adam Montague and Tim Kreutz both taking shots within the first five minutes. Ryan Thelen threw in a long ball for Brent McIntosh, but the opportunity went over the post. The Wildcat keeper had to come up with a big save when Kreutz got a volley on target from the top right side of the box.
Montague cleared out a chance for Northwestern to go ahead with a sure header, before several Spartans made the most of their opportunities with shot attempts by Jay Chapman, Kreutz, Sean Conerty and Fatai Alashe. Though a scoreless first half came to a close after both sides fought for possession, MSU out shot Northwestern 14-4.
“I thought we definitely controlled a large portion of the first half,” Rensing said. “Their goalkeeper (Tyler) Miller made one really good save. We had some good looks and hit them well, but just right at them and just couldn’t find the corners. I thought we controlled the game, but obviously it was 0-0 at the half and we didn’t have a whole lot to show for it.”
Northwestern didn’t hold back at the beginning of the second half, as a Wildcat free kick was sent into the near post by Chris Ritter and just past Zach Bennett giving NU a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute.
Answering with two back-to-back free kicks, Thelen took advantage of a deflection on the second one and sent it in to tie the score 1-1 in the 74th minute. It was his second goal scored this season.
Less than four minutes later, Montague attacked the net and passed the ball to Kreutz who easily finished the goal for his fourth of the season and sixth of his career. The Spartans took the lead, 2-1, with under 13 minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats responded in the 86th minute with a header from Lepe Seetane sent in across the box from one yard out, forcing the game into overtime. Both teams kept any opportunities at the beginning of the first overtime at bay before Bennett earned a major save to deny the Wildcats the lead. After Ryan Keener defended another Northwestern chance, the first overtime came to an end.
“We just tried to preach to come out and do the same things,” said Rensing. “Northwestern came out and earned a free kick and credit to Ritter who put it in. Here we were controlling a lot of the game and we had to fight to get back. I thought our guys kind of settled in and just kept playing and grinding away. I think for us to tie and go up was great. Then we gave up a tough goal. I thought we were managing the end of the game well. We really weren’t giving much up, but they had one play and again scored.”
In the second overtime, Sean Conerty did a great job of getting on the ball and passing it out of the midfield for Montague who’s shot went just wide of the goal. The Spartans kept fighting for an opportunity before McIntosh set up Montague who bounced a header into the goal in the final minute of double overtime.
“What can I say, these guys have been great,” Rensing said. “The mentality of this team is very good. McIntosh had a great individual play and Montague finished it off. It was really neat to see the guys celebrate and enjoy it. They just rushed the field and I was just happy for them. When these guys put that type of time in 119 minutes and be rewarded for their work is what makes it all fun for me as a coach.”
It marks the third-straight year that the meeting between the two teams has been sent into double overtime and the first time that Michigan State has beaten the Wildcats in Evanston since 2001. It is also the first double-overtime win for the Spartans since they defeated Indiana in Bloomington in 2009.
“Northwestern is a very good program and it’s tough to win Big Ten road games, so for our guys to go in there and do it, it was going to take this type of effort and execution,” said Rensing. "I thought we executed very well and we also played together as a group. It’s great for our guys and more importantly, it puts us at 1-0 in the Big Ten.”
The Spartans will return home to host Ohio State at DeMartin Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 13. With kickoff set for 1 p.m., the game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.