Aug. 31, 2011
Michigan State, receiving votes in the latest NSCAA poll, heads to the east coast to take on fifth-ranked Connecticut on Thursday evening, then will travel up the coast to take on New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon. These will be the first road games of the season for the Spartans, and the second straight year that a top-five team will serve as the road opener for Damon Rensing's squad.
State of the Spartans
MSU dominated in every facet of the game except the scoreboard in its season opener against Detroit last Saturday. A penalty kick conversion by Otieno Victor in the 96th minute was the golden goal for the Titans, as Michigan State fell to its in-state rival, 1-0, in the season opener for both teams.
The game-winner materialized on a counterattack - Victor tore up the left sideline and got it inside the box. He got around defender Kevin Cope, and Mark Barone came in with a slide tackle that he thought was centered solely on the ball. The official called the foul, and Victor lined up for the penalty shot - he sent it into the lower-left corner for the lone goal of the contest. Overall, the Spartans had an edge in shots (22-5) and corner kicks (16-0), but drew more fouls (11-5). However, Detroit had four yellow cards and one red card in the contest, which came early in the second half.
MSU openened on the road at No. 4 Maryland last season, and took a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory from the Terps.
Michigan State was ranked 19th in the NSCAA preseason poll, coming off a 2010 season in which it went 13-7-4. The Spartans fell into the category of "receiving votes" in the first weekly poll, after the season-opening loss to Detroit. Six of MSU's 2011 opponents appear in the week one NSCAA survey: No. 2 Akron, No. 5 Connecticut, No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Indiana, and 23 Ohio State. Preseason No. 9 Michigan fell out of the poll entirely, as they are no longer receiving votes after starting 0-2, with losses to Bowling Green and No. 21 Kentucky. MSU's Sept. 9 opponent, Georgetown, is receiving votes in the NSCAA poll this week.
A Look at the Huskies
Connecticut was ranked No. 8 in the preseason and has moved up to No. 5 in the NSCAA national poll this week after a 2-0 season-opening victory over St. Francis last Saturday. Head Coach Ray Reid is in his 15th season as the mentor of the Huskies, and his charges are coming off a 12-2-6 overall record in 2010, which includes a 8-0-3 mark at their home field. In Division I men's soccer last season, UConn was ranked No. 1 in goals against average (0.28) and save percentage (.914) at the conclusion of the regular season. The Huskies also led the BIG EAST Conference in points (115), goals (36), goals per game (2.12), goals against average (0.28) and shutouts (12).
Senior Tony Cascio and junior midfielder Carlos Alvarez were pre-season All-America selections. Alvarez led the BIG EAST last season with 12 assists and 0.71 assists per game, and midfielder Cascio is the reigning BIG EAST Offensive Player of the year. The Huskies lost their all-conference goalkeeper Josh Ford to graduation, and freshman Andre Blake got the start in last week's season opener.
Scouting the Wildcats
New Hampshire finished 2010 with a 9-5-6 record and competed in the America East tournament for the sixth time in the last eight years. Despite losing a talented and productive senior class, head coach RobThompson returns 16 letterwinners to go along with 12 skilled newcomers for his 18th season on the Wildcat sideline.
UNH will play Iona on Thursday in advance of the showdown with the Spartans on Sunday afternoon. In its opening game last weekend, Ugochukwu Uche, an Ann Arbor native, scored with 1:18 remaining in regulation to lift New Hampshire to Friday night's 2-1 victory against Rhode Island. Senior captain in Brad Hilton had the other UNH goal in the contest, in the 59th minute.
Thompson's squad is led by the duo of Steven Palumbo and Charlie Roche up front, the senior captain Hilton in the midfield, and senior backliner Alex Russell. The Wildcats are auditioning three freshmen keepers this season, with no veterans returning to the lineup from the 2010 squad.
MSU men's soccer team has been tabbed fifth in the pre-season conference polls, as announced by the Big Ten Conference office on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Indiana was selected as the favorite, and Ohio State checks in at No. 2 in the poll matching their finish from a year ago. Penn State follows at No. 3, jumping up a spot from last year's fourth place campaign. Michigan, after winning its first Big Ten Tournament title and advancing to last year's NCAA College Cup semifinals, clocks in at No. 4. Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin round out the poll. The Conference also announced it's list of Players to Watch, and the three MSU players are seniors Rubin Bega and Cyrus Saydee, and a returning all-Big Ten selection, junior Kevin Cope.
The Big Ten Network will air 10 men's soccer games this fall, and of the nine that have been announced, three will feature Michigan State in Big Ten Conference matchups at DeMartin Stadium. The Spartans host Ohio State on Sunday, Oct. 2 at noon, which will be the second game of the men's soccer package on the Network. The Spartans will host Penn State a week later, also a noon game, and then will tangle with Michigan on Sunday, Oct. 30 in a battle for the Big Bear Trophy.