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MSU Heads To Illinois-Chicago For Mid-Week Match
MSU has shutout five opponents in seven games, placing them No. 4 in the country in shutout percentage (0.71).
MSU has shutout five opponents in seven games, placing them No. 4 in the country in shutout percentage (0.71).

Sept. 30, 2013

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Heading back out on the road, the Michigan State men's soccer team (5-1-1) will travel to University of Illinois-Chicago (6-2-0) at Flames Field on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET. It will be the last game before the Spartans open their Big Ten slate.

“I think it will be another good test,” said head coach Damon Rensing. “When you’re trying to play for at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, there’s pressure on every game. We want to keep staying consistent and continue to get better and this is a good challenge for us to do that.”

Join The Chain
To promote the 2013 men’s soccer campaign, senior goalkeeper Bryce Dobbins enlisted several Spartans from around MSU athletics to appear in a recent video he produced. Featuring Athletic Director Mark Hollis, head coach Damon Rensing and Sparty himself, Michigan State invites the entire Spartan nation to ‘Join the Chain’ and watch the video on YouTube here:

“It might sound cliché, but I’m all about the program and I wanted to do something promotional wise that would be for the team, but at the same time helping my skills,” said Dobbins. “(Assistant coach) Kylie (Stannard) likes to say that I did 95% and he did 5% because he came up with the idea. We wanted to do some type of video and we thought that this would be a good way to symbolize the team and connecting everyone who supports us. We thank everyone who helped make it possible.”

In the Rankings
MSU is ranked 25th by, is tied for No. 25 with Indiana in the poll and is receiving votes in the NSCAA poll and the College Soccer News poll. Regionally, the Spartans are tied for fourth with Louisville in the NSCAA Great Lakes poll.

Currently, the Spartans are first in the Big Ten for total assists (19), assists per game (2.43), tied for first in fewest goals allowed (four), is second in total shots (111), goals against average (0.55) and total shutouts (5) and tied for second fewest goals allowed (four). MSU is fourth in the nation in assists per game (2.71), save percentage (.875) and shutout percentage (.71), tied for eighth in total assists (19), is 14th in points per game (6.43), tied for 17th in won-lost-tied percentage (.786) and No. 18 in goals against average (0.55).

Last Time Out
Recording the fifth shutout of the season, Michigan State defeated Northern Illinois, 2-0 on Sept. 28. With the win, the Spartans improved to 5-1-1 and now own a 53-35-11 record while playing at DeMartin Stadium. MSU turned in two second-half goals by Jay Chapman and Ryan Keener to earn the first win over Northern Illinois in program history.

After MSU maintained possession with back-to-back opportunities in the first half, a corner kick from Sean Conerty set up a bullet shot in by Chapman off an assist by Fatai Alashe in the 70th minute. Putting the first points on the board and giving MSU a 1-0 lead, Chapman scored his first goal of the season and fifth of his career. Returning to the game twice after getting stitched up and having to change jerseys on two separate occasions, Keener headed a goal into the back of the net off a corner kick from Ryan Thelen to put the Spartans up 2-0 in the 75th minute. It was Keener's first goal of the season, fourth of his career.

Conference Recognition
For the second consecutive week, goalkeeper Zach Bennett was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week as announced by the conference office on Sept. 23. Bennett’s career-high eight saves helped the Spartans to their second-straight shutout this past Tuesday with a 1-0 home win against Bowling Green.

Bennett is currently first in the Big Ten with a .875 Sv%, second in goals against average (0.55), shutouts (5) and shutouts per game (0.71 avg.) and third in saves (28) and saves per game (4.5 avg.). In the win against the Falcons, Bennett recorded a career-high eight saves on the day en route to earning his fourth shutout of the season, seventh of his career. The sophomore is also No. 7 in the nation in save percentage and 17th in the country in goals against average. It is the third weekly honor for the Plano, Texas, native who has played in every minute of the 2013 season.

Through seven games this season, MSU has outshot its opponents, for a total of 111-96. Sitting at No. 2 in the conference in total shots, the team has averaged 15.9 shots per game with a .117 shot percentage. A total of 16 Spartans have contributed to the offensive shooting, led by Adam Montague (24), Tim Kreutz.(16), Jay Chapman (16) and Sean Conerty (14).

Solid September
With only one loss in the Spartans first seven games, MSU owns the best September record since the 2010 season at 5-1-1. Tying Creighton 2-2, Michigan State has remained unbeaten for four straight games this month. It is the first time the Spartans have shutdown five opponents to start the season since 2006 and the first time they have come all in September since 2002.

Another Brick In The Wall
The Michigan State backline has been nearly perfect thus far in the 2013 season, only allowing four goals in seven games, tying them for first in the Big Ten. With only one game left before MSU breaks into the Big Ten schedule, the team is also second in the conference with five shutouts so far this season. The Spartans are currently ranked fourth in the nation in shutout percentage (.71).

Stifling The Flames
The Spartans holds an all-time record of 14-3-3 over UIC, with the most recent meeting between the two teams resulting in 2-1 victory for MSU in East Lansing in 2011. In eight games this season, the Flames (6-2-0) are riding a six-game winning streak after losing two-straight games at home. They have blanked their last five opponents, outscoring the competition 10-0.

“They are a very well-organized defensive team,” Rensing said. “It doesn’t matter who you play, and they’ve played some good teams with Gonzaga and a few others, but it’s hard to go five games without giving up a goal. Their goal tender Putna is very good. That’s the thing, you’ve got to be patient against them. You’re not going to walk in there and just start lighting up the score board. You just have to be patient and you can’t be casual. I think that’s what we will have to be.”

Entering his fourth season as head coach, Sean Phillips owns a 29-27-5 record and returns 12 letterwinners from the 2012 squad that finished third in the Horizon Conference. The Flames are led by Jorge Alvarez (3-4-10), Jesus Torres (3-3-9) and Kyle Lindberg (3-0-6). In goal, Andrew Putna owns a 0.75 GAA with a .875 Sv%, playing the entirety of UIC’s eight games this season.

Shutout Showdown
Entering Tuesday’s match, both MSU and UIC have blanked five opponents this season, outscoring the competition 10-0 in their respective games. The Flames are on a five-game shutout streak and own a .63 shutout percentage, ranking them ninth in the country. Michigan State’s five shutouts in seven games places them No. 4 in the nation with a .71 shutout percentage.

“I think it will be a bit of a defensive struggle,” said Rensing. “The guys on offense will have to be patient, but I think you’ve got to take chances. Every goal doesn’t have to be pretty. Sometimes you get one and the second one comes a little bit easier. They might have to change how they play if we get a lead or vice versa. I just think patience will be key.”

Hovering Over The Horizon League
Tuesday matchup with the Flames marks the third of four games this season against a member of the Horizon League. MSU recorded their only loss of the season to Valparaiso (Sept. 9) before the game against Detroit was indefinitely postponed on Sept. 11 and will face Oakland on Oct. 16. All-time, the Spartans own a 55-44-15 record against the current members of the league including taking down 2012 Horizon League Tournament Champion Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Preseason Honors
As the reigning Big Ten Tournament Champions, MSU entered the season ranked second in the 2013 Big Ten preseason coaches' poll with 21 returning Spartans.

Three members of the team were recognized by the Big Ten coaches as redshirt senior Kevin Cope and juniors Adam Montague and Fatai Alashe were named to the 2013 Players to Watch list.

Ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten by, Kevin Cope returns for his final season as a team captain for the Spartans. He was recognized on's Preseason Best XI second team and is ranked No. 22 of the top-100 Division I players.

Adam Montague, also a team captain, was ranked sixth in the conference by's heading into the 2013 season after posting a goal in every game of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament. He is also No. 47 in the country on's top-100.

Player Appreciation
After recording his first career goal in his inaugural start as a Spartan, freshman Dewey Lewis was named Big Ten Player of the Week by College Soccer Madness on Sept. 2. Lewis stole the ball away from a Bronco defender and beat the keeper to earn an unassisted goal.

Spartan Firsts
In addition to Dewey Lewis’ first career goal scored against Western Michigan in his Spartan debut, redshirt senior Ryan Thelen scored his first career goal on Sept. 6 against Oregon State. The game-winning goal was scored off Thelen’s seventh corner kick of the game, hooked into the back right corner of the net to give the Spartans a 1-0 victory.

With the win, MSU improved to 2-0 which marked the first time the Spartans started with a two-game shutout since 2007 under former head coach Joe Baum. It was the first 2-0 start to the season for head coach Damon Rensing and the first time in the Rensing era that the Spartans had not allowed a goal in the first two games

Senior Standout
Redshirt senior Kevin Cope was chosen as one of 30 candidates for the 2013 men's collegiate soccer 2013 Senior CLASS Award®, presented by Premier Sports Management. He is only the second candidate from MSU men’s soccer program to be a candidate for the award established for the sport in 2007, as 2008 captain Doug DeMartin was in the top-30 his senior season.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

The two-time captain has already made a huge impact on the pitch for the Spartans this season. Recording one career goal prior to 2013, Cope has scored two goals in MSU’s three games thus far.

Stout Schedule
In true Spartan fashion, MSU is slated for another tough season of quality non-conference games in addition to a challenging Big Ten conference schedule. Seven NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago, including National Champion Indiana and semifinalist Creighton, help make up the 2013 slate.

At The Helm
Head Coach Damon Rensing is in his fifth season as head coach, but embarks on his 15th on the Spartan sideline after a standout career for the Spartans (1993-96). Rensing is 48-34-11(.524) in his five seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts a 127-75-22 (.616) overall record with Rensing on the sidelines, including 11 or more wins in nine seasons.

Kylie Stannard and Ben Pirmann serve as the Spartan assistants. Pirmann is also a former Spartan letterwinner, and previously served the program as the volunteer assistant before returning to his alma mater after a coaching stint at Western Michigan. Stannard is a graduate of Creighton, which reached the Elite Eight twice in his career and the semifinals once. Prior to coming to MSU, he was an assistant coach at Northern Illinois. Stannard and Pirmann have both served as the head coach of Detroit City FC, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League. Stannard made his debut in 2012, while Pirmann coached the team in 2013. Former MSU keeper Jeremy Clark, who played for MSU 2008-11, is now in his second season as the team's volunteer coach.

Big Ten Broadcast Schedule
The Big Ten Network will televise two Michigan State men's soccer games live this season. MSU's showdown with Ohio State at DeMartin Stadium is the first game (Oct. 13), and the other home game which will be shown is the Nov. 5 matchup with Notre Dame. The Spartans' games against Valparaiso (Sept. 8), Penn State (Oct. 20) and Michigan (Nov. 9) will be broadcast on Big Ten Digital Network; a paid subscription is necessary. The Big Ten Network will also televise the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held Nov. 15-17 at Ohio State.

Tune In
Follow along with the game through live stats available on Gametracker on and follow @MSUMSoccer on twitter for play-by-play updates during the game.

Next Up
In their Big Ten opener, the Spartans will hit the road to take on top-ranked Northwestern on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. ET.




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