Nov. 9, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - In the last game of the regular season, the Michigan State men's soccer team shutout Michigan, 2-0, in front of the largest crowd of the year on Senior Day. The 2,445 fans in attendance proved to be the second largest in DeMartin Stadium history and the third most in program history. With the win, the Spartans improved to 10-4-3 on the season and 3-2-1 in the conference, while Michigan now owns an 8-6-3 record, including 3-3-0 in the Big Ten. MSU defeated its in-state rival to earn the ninth shutout of the season.
"It was a competitive match," said head coach Damon Rensing. "It was really a tale of two halves. Michigan came out and was very sharp in the first half, but I thought we weathered some storms and didn't give up to much. We really came out well in the second half and just took the game over. They were certainly deserving of the red card and the penalty kick. It was also a great goal by Kyle Rutz. The crowd and the atmosphere was electric; it was absolutely unbelievable. I want to thank all the fans and the Rowdies that came out, they were fantastic and they helped fuel our guys to a victory over our in-state rival."
Not holding anything back, both teams applied pressure out the gate. MSU battled with UM for possession in midfield as both teams attempted to create chances on either side of the pitch, but the center backs paced the game with a steady defense.
It wasn't until the 18th minute when Michigan earned the first shot on goal of the day for either team, which was saved off the hands of Spartan keeper Zach Bennett. Strong play by Bennett and the Spartan defense, kept the game scoreless at the half, despite the Wolverines holding a first-half 10-0 edge in shots.
The Spartans responded in full force to begin the second half as MSU earned its first corner kick of the game in the opening minute, setting an early tone. Michigan State kept the pressure on with Kreutz breaking away and drawing a yellow card from a Wolverine defender to set up a blocked free kick.
Michigan took a shot sent wide of the net before Sean Conerty and Jay Chapman created solid ball movement to set up Conerty for a shot that was saved by the UM keeper. He was pressured again to punch out a dangerous charge from Kreutz with under 40 minutes left in the game. The Spartans didn't let up as Ryan Keener earned a header off a free kick, but was again kept out of the net by the Wolverine defense. Fatai Alashe crossed a perfect ball over to Kreutz who again broke away, but sent a shot that was saved by the UM keeper. Kreutz continued to earn chances for the Spartans, charging down the field and drew another foul resulting in a red card for Michigan's Jack Brown with 31 minutes to go.
In the 60th minute, Conerty sent a cross over to Kyle Rutz who sent in his second goal of the year off a header from 15 yards out to give MSU a 1-0 lead over the Wolverines. It marked Rutz' fifth goal of his career.
Less than three minutes later, another Michigan foul set up a penalty kick for MSU that Alashe took advantage of to extend the Spartans lead to 2-0. It marked his third goal of the year, the fifth of his career.
The Wolverines aggression continued to draw fouls, setting up another free kick for the Spartans taken by Thelen and giving Kenner a chance on a header that was sent just wide of the goal. Trying to find an answer, Michigan earned a free kick followed by a shot saved by Bennett. MSU continued to maintain possession throughout the second half, with both Jerome Cristobal and Rutz adding shots on goal for the Spartans. UM sent a laser on target to earn a late chance, but couldn't get passed the hands of Bennett.
"I thought we were a little rushed in the first half," Rensing said. "We got the ball into the attacking half, but we just needed to calm down and make some decisions. It was just the type of game we were involved in. Once we started to calm down and play a little bit more, I thought we created some very good stuff. We were able to threaten their backline and get in behind and that was the difference. When Tim started to threaten things in behind, that opened space for us to play underneath and that was the difference in the game."
Wesley Curtis made his first start of the season on senior day.
In goal, Zach Bennett made seven saves to earn his ninth shutout of the season. He finishes the regular season with a 0.77 GAA and an .865 Sv%.
After the game, the Michigan State men's soccer program recognized his six-member senior class of Kevin Cope, Wesley Curtis, Bryce Dobbins, Cody Henderson, Brent McIntosh and Ryan Thelen, with an on field ceremony.
"I'm just happy for the guys," said Rensing. "It's been a great season for our guys, but it's always got ups and downs and these guys just keep persevering. This team deserves this game. They played very well. They deserve the record they have and I'm just happy for this team. I'm certainly happy for the seniors. They have been a great group and I couldn't think of a better way to send them out."
The Spartans, who locked up the No. 3 seed, will face Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament, which is set to begin on Wednesday, Nov. 13 in Columbus, Ohio. The 2013 Big Ten Tournament bracket and schedule can be found here.