Nov. 2, 2011
Akron, Ohio - A goal by senior Rubin Bega in the 86th minute gave Michigan State a hard-earned 1-0 upset victory over No. 6 Akron on Wednesday evening, abruptly ending Akron's 48-game home unbeaten streak.
"We played really well; they took it to us in the second half, but our guys stuck to it," said head coach Damon Rensing, who now has twice knocked off a top-10 team on the road in the last two seasons. "I'm so proud of the total team effort - it started with Jeremy [Clark] in net. Our back four read the game so well, our midfielders worked so hard, and our seniors like Cyrus [Saydee], Garret Back , and Rubin ... just such a great effort from everyone tonight.
"Akron is a very good team, and they certainly came at us," continued Rensing. "We absorbed what they gave us and waited for our chances. I was really happy for Rubin to get the game-winner - it was such a great goal."
The Spartans even their season record at 7-7-4 (2-2-2 Big Ten), and are now 5-1-2 since Oct. 4. MSU struggled early in the season with consistency and finishing, thanks in large part to losing two All-Big Ten candidates before the season was two games old. Over the last month, the Spartans have still struggled to create offense, but have been sound defensively and have gotten outstanding work from fifth-year senior keeper Jeremy Clark, who had six saves in recording his second consecutive shutout.
Bega's winner came with 3:27 remaining in regulation. A long ball came down into the offensive third from Adam Montague for the senior, who was able to split the defense and lofted a soft shot over the head of the charging goalkeeper and into the back of the net. It was his fourth goal of the season.
The Spartans weathered long stretches of pressure by the home team, particularly the first 20 minutes of the second half in which the Akron offense attempted to wear down the MSU defense. Jeremy Clark was particularly sharp, smothering loose balls and making impressive saves on free kicks in the 67th and 74th minutes from just inside the 18 yard box.
MSU got its first shot on goal with about 10 minutes remaining in regulation, as the ball fell onto the feet of Joe Paljaj about 11 yards out, but he could not get a strong shot off to break up the scoreless tie.
Akron had a pair of late corner kicks, none more dangerous than the second one with just over two minutes remaining. After the ball was inserted into the box, Matt Daglis got a head on it, and several Zips players celebrated, thinking the ball was in; however, Clark made the big save right on the line to preserve the MSU shutout and victory.
Akron had a 17-5 edge in shots, including 14 of those shots coming in the second half; the Zips also held a 6-3 edge in shots on goal and 8-0 in corner kicks.
Michigan State has concluded its regular-season schedule, and will have a few days to enjoy the victory as the rest of the Big Ten teams complete the conference schedule this weekend. MSU will play again in a week as the Big Ten Tournament kicks off next Wednesday in Ann Arbor.