March 21, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State men’s soccer team is halfway through the spring schedule for the 2014 season, winning one game and tying two more. The Spartans have five additional games to close out spring soccer for the year in preparation for the fall season.
“The main thing in the spring is three-fold,” said head coach Damon Rensing. “First, we want to evaluate individuals and see how they’re doing. Some guys that didn’t get as many minutes in the fall, they get a ton of opportunities for us to evaluate them. Certainly guys who had minutes in the fall have to re-earn those minutes. Secondly, you want to look at pairings and groups, how the forwards are working together, how the centerbacks are working together or the right back and the right mid. We’re going to look and evaluate those things. Finally, we look at what our team does as a whole from a character and chemistry stand point because this is the start of a new team. We want to always be monitoring how we are handling things as a group; positive and negative things that happen in games, or how we respond from winning one game or from losing a game. Those things are the three things we really focus on in the spring.”
On Feb. 23, the Spartans took on the Ajax U-18 club out of Ontario, Canada and Sigma U-19 club out of Toronto inside the Duffy Daugherty Indoor Football Building, with both games counting towards international exemption.
In the first match, MSU posted a 3-0 win over Ajax with Zach Bennett and Quinn McAnaney sharing the shutout. Kyle Rutz kicked off spring soccer for MSU, scoring the first goal for the Spartans in the 14th minute. In the 54th minute, Asa Miller sent a target on goal with an assist to Blake Skamiera, just before Ali Scheib scored the third goal of the day for MSU off an assist from Brian Winterfield. Michigan State outshot Ajax 13-2 in the game.
Playing in back-to-back games, the Spartans also took on Sigma U-19 on Feb. 23 with the game ending in a 0-0 deadlock. Bennett and McAnaney again shared the shutout for the Spartans, as each team registered four saves in the game. Michigan State put up 11 shots in the game, to just five from Sigma.
Just over two weeks later, MSU hosted Oakland on Friday, March 14 inside Duffy, with the game also ending in a 1-1 tie. Oakland’s Joey Tinnion scored first off an assist from Matt Dudley against McAnaney in goal in the 66th minute. However, Jerome Cristobal answered with a goal for the Spartans in the 71st minute off an assist from Tim Kretuz. MSU recorded 15 shots in the game to Oakland’s 10, while McAnaney posted six saves.
“I think we’re making progress,” Rensing said. “Sometimes progress isn’t always in results, even though we’ve tied two games and won one. I’ve been pleasantly pleased for the most part with how we’ve moved the ball and with our possession. We’ve defended decently. Obviously, with the loss of a few guys, we’ve had some different guys that have come in who have done Ok. We’ve still got to get better there for our standard come fall. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the overall play for the most part. We’ve had basically everybody play even minutes, so that’s another thing where we are developing depth and I think that’s important. Guys are getting to play a lot of positions and the level really hasn’t dropped too much no matter who’s been in the lineup.”
Next up, the Spartans will travel to take on the MLS Columbus Crew team on Sunday, March 23 at the Obetz Training Facility. Michigan State will face Columbus following its home opener against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The Crew currently sits in third in the Eastern Conference standings after winning its first game, 3-0 of the season against D.C. United.
“It’s a great opportunity for our guys,” said Rensing. “It’s basically their reserves, so all the professionals signed to contracts and it could be guys in the starting lineup that may be coming off of an injury or younger guys that maybe didn’t get quite as many minutes the night before or guys that are trying to earn more playing time. We’re going to go down the day before and go to their home opener, the Crew vs. the Philadelphia Union. I think it will be a great environment. Obviously the level is a jump up athletically, technically, tactically and I think we’ve got a group that can handle those types of things. It’s great for our guys to see where their strengths and weaknesses are at the next level.”
The rest of the MSU men’s soccer spring schedule, which is closed to the public, is as follows:
- Sunday, March 23 at 10:30 a.m. - MSU at Columbus Crew (Obetz Training Facility)
- Saturday, March 29 at 3:30 p.m. - MSU vs. Cleveland State (Demartin Training Field)
- Saturday, April 5 at 3:45 p.m. - MSU vs. Michigan (Ultimate Soccer Arena)
- Saturday, April 12 at 7 p.m. - MSU vs. Butler (Westfield, Ind.)
- Friday, April 18 - Green & White Scrimmage (weather and grounds permitting)