EAST LANSING, Mich. - The 10th-ranked MSU men's soccer team will open the 2014 season with a pair of games at DeMartin Stadium this weekend. The Spartans will host SMU on Friday at 5 p.m. and then Florida International at noon on Sunday. Admission to Friday's game is free.
Michigan State completed exhibition play over the weekend. Following a 1-0 loss to No. 6 Washington at the Shindigz Soccer Festival, the Spartans rebounded for a 4-0 shutout over Stevens Institute in a showdown between Rensing and his brother, Devin.
With some additional adjustments on the way, the exhibitions provided at least some insight into what the Spartan lineup would look like for the 2014 season. Most notably, freshman Brad Centala and transfer Zach Carroll stepped in the back line in place of graduates Ryan Thelen and All-American Kevin Cope for both weekend games. Along with contribution from freshmen Ken Krolicki and Jimmy Fiscus, the Spartans expect big things from returning starters Fatai Alashe and the forward combo of Adam Montague and Tim Kreutz, who posted two goals in Sunday's shutout.
"As a group (Montague and Kreutz), they're even stronger," said Rensing. "They're both capable of being first-team All-Big Ten. Certainly, the conference this year will be talented and deep, but they're capable of pushing to the top."
Both Montague and Kreutz earned All-Big Ten Honors last year, along with four other members of the 2013 squad. The Spartans were voted second in the Big Ten preseason poll selected by the coaches.
In the Polls
In addition to the No. 10 ranking from the NSCAA and No. 11 from College Soccer News, the Spartans were recognized with the No. 8 rank by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
"Those are obviously preseason goals and we'll have to work to accomplish those, but those are our ultimate goals," Rensing said.
Michigan State was one of three Big Ten schools to be recognized in the top 25, along with Maryland (No. 3) and Michigan (No. 19).
The Spartans open the 2014 regular season against Southern Methodist University on Friday, Aug. 29 at 5 p.m.
"We're looking forward to SMU and Florida International coming to DeMartin Stadium," said Rensing. "We've had a good preseason. The group has been working hard together and we're looking forward to a great match of Friday. SMU is a very talented team, well-coached and has huge traditions just like Florida International. We're playing two traditional soccer powers here."
The Mustangs finished the 2013 season with a record of 3-12-2, with a conference record of 2-4-2. This will be the schools' first meeting on the field.
In Pursuit of Panthers
Michigan State will play Florida International University on Sunday, Aug. 31 at noon. The Panthers went 6-10-1 last season, with a conference record of 2-6-1. Senior forward Quentin Albrecht received preseason All-Conference USA team recognition. FIU will compete earlier in the weekend at Michigan before heading to East Lansing. The Spartans won the last and only match against the Panthers in 2007, 1-0.
With the return of students to campus, the athletic department will welcome four athletic events to campus for a slew of competition on Friday. In addition to the football home opener at 7:30 p.m., the Spartans will compete in field hockey alongside men's and women's soccer. Women's soccer will kick off the doubleheader at 2 p.m. against Eastern Michigan, with the men following at 5 p.m.
Admission will be free for field hockey and both soccer matches on Friday.
Parking for these events will be extremely limited and passes will be distributed according to regular football guidelines and procedures. First-come, first-serve paid lots will be available to those looking to attend the events at DeMartin Stadium. On campus public parking is available for $20 per game at Munn Field (alcohol free) and lots north and south of the railroad tracks and for $10 per game at lots on Service Road or south of Service Road.
Michigan State will play its first road game next Friday, Sept. 5 against UIC at 8 p.m.