Oct. 22, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Looking to improve an unbeaten road record, the No. 17 Michigan State men's soccer team (8-2-2) will travel to face No. 18 Akron (10-3-0). The game will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at Cub Cadet Field in FirstEnergy Stadium.
"I think it's a lot of physical and mental rejuvenation," said head coach Damon Rensing. "I don't think there is a lot that we have to train on the soccer field before Akron. We just have to be aware of some things we have to clean up in order to win these close games. I think the guys will be ready for sure. You get to play at Akron, which is a great environment. It will be tough; we will have to be together. So I think that's a positive, the guys will be ready to play for this game."
In the Rankings
In the NCAA men's soccer RPI rankings released on Oct. 20, Michigan State remains in the top-15, ranked No. 12. The Spartans are the second highest-ranked Big Ten team in the RPI rankings. The RPI, or rating percentage index, weights three factors including a team's Division I winning percentage, opponent strength of schedule and opponent's opponent strength of schedule.
Michigan State is also ranked 14th in the SoccerTimes.com poll, No. 17 in the NSCAA poll, 19th by TopDrawerSoccer.com, No. 23 by College Sports Madness, 24th in the College Soccer News poll and is tied for No. 25 by Soccer America. Regionally, the Spartans are fifth in the NSCAA Great Lakes poll.
Currently, the Spartans (1-1-1) are third in the Big Ten standings. MSU leads the Big Ten in goals against average (0.70), fewest goals allowed (nine), total assists (30) and assists per game (2.50). The team is No. 2 in shutouts (7), total shots (225), total saves (57), goals per game (1.92 avg.) and in total points (76). Michigan State is also tied for second in the conference with 23 goals scored.
MSU is No. 4 in the nation in assists per game (2.50), tied for fourth in save percentage (.864), tied for fifth in total assists (30), eighth in shutout percentage (.58), is No. 11 in points per game (6.33), is tied for No. 16 in won-lost-tied percentage (.750), sits at No. 20 in goals against average (.60) and is tied for 24th in scoring offense.
Last Time Out
In the fourth double overtime game of the season, Michigan State lost a hard-fought battle to Penn State, 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium. Michigan State also celebrated Alumni Day on Sunday as six decades worth of Spartan alums were recognized during halftime of the game.
A foul by Penn State set up a free kick for the Spartans. Ryan Thelen found Tim Kreutz who headed in a goal just inside the right post to give MSU a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute. It marked the seventh goal of the season for Kreutz, the ninth of his career.
Penn State earned the equalizer in the 50th minute of the game and forced the defense into overdrive. Both teams were unable to take the lead, which forced the game into double overtime. With under a minute into the second overtime period, the Nittany Lions scored the golden goal to earn the win.
Redshirt senior Kevin Cope was chosen as one of 10 finalists 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. Fan voting begins now through Nov. 25 at www.seniorclassaward.com/vote.
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.
"He's certainly worthy of being in the top-10 when you look at the quality of a player he is and the quality of a young man and what he's done both academically and in the community," said head coach Damon Rensing. "That's hard to balance all of those and he excels in all of them. I'm sure there are 10 other guys in the country who are doing the same things, but I can't think of any the way that Kevin does it. That's a testament to him and the support that we have here at Michigan State, both at the academic center, Angela Montie with the community service and how we try to do things her at Michigan State within the soccer program."
The two-time captain has already made a huge impact on the pitch for the Spartans this season, despite missing five games. Recording one career goal prior to 2013, Cope has scored two goals in six games for MSU this season. As a member of the stout Spartan defense, he has helped Michigan State lead the Big Ten in fewest goals allowed with seven and goals against average (0.60) and has played in three of the Spartan's seven shutouts this season.
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: http://youtu.be/NEuuz1RX6KU.
"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."
Junior forward Adam Montague was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career on Oct. 7. Scoring his second game-winning goal in as many games, Montague bounced a header into the net in the final minute of double-overtime on Sunday. Leading the team in shots this season, Montague sent in his seventh shot of the game off an assist from Brent McIntosh to tie for first in the Big Ten with his third game-winning goal of the season.
His 50 shots and 4.17 shot per game average leads the conference. He also recorded an assist in the team's first Big Ten win of the season and the first road win over Northwestern since 2001. Though he was held to just three shots at Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday, he earned his second goal of the season with a shot off an assist from Jay Chapman to put the Spartans up 1-0 at Flames Field.
For two-straight weeks, goalkeeper Zach Bennett was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week by the conference office on Sept. 16 and 23. Bennett's career-high eight saves helped the Spartans to their second-straight shutout against Bowling Green with a 1-0 home win on Sept. 18. With the help of his backline, he earned his third shutout in four games as the Spartans blanked Marquette on the road on Sept. 15. It marked the third weekly honor for the Plano, Texas, native who has played in every minute of the 2013 season.
Bennett is currently first in the Big Ten with a 0.70 goals against average and second with a .879 Sv%. He is also No. 2 in shutouts (7), shutouts per game (0.58), saves (56) and saves per game (4.67 avg.). The sophomore is also No. 6 in the nation in save percentage and is 21st in the country in goals against average.
Through 12 games this season, MSU has outshot its opponents, for a total of 221-163. The Spartans recorded a season-high 36 shots against Ohio State on Oct. 13, an additional 13 past its previous season-high of 23 at Northwestern. Second in the conference in total shots, the team has averaged 18.4 shots per game with a .104 shot percentage. A total of 16 Spartans have contributed to the offensive shooting, led by Adam Montague (50), Tim Kreutz (37), Sean Conerty (27) and Jay Chapman (27).
Another Brick In The Wall
The Michigan State backline has been nearly perfect thus far in the 2013 season, only allowing nine goals in 12 games (0.75 avg.), first in the Big Ten. MSU is also second in the conference with seven shutouts so far this season. The Spartans are currently ranked eighth in the nation in shutout percentage (.60).
An Analysis of Akron
The Spartans hold an all-time record of 10-25-1 against Akron, with the most recent meeting between the two teams ending in a 1-0 loss for MSU in East Lansing in 2012. The Zips, who are 10-3-0 on the season, are riding a three-game winning streak after defeating Buffalo 1-0 in double overtime in Buffalo, N.Y., on Oct. 18. Allowing just eight goals this season, Akron is ninth in the nation with a 0.58 GAA and tied for 11th in the nation in shutout percentage (0.54).
"They are a very good possession team," Rensing said. "So I think we have to be patient with ourselves when we don't have the ball. We are going to have to be patient with the ball. We are going to have to keep the ball and not give it away right away and make them defend a little bit. That's the key with Akron - they are very good on the ball, very good in possession. You have to be okay with that and know that even though you don't have the ball sometimes, that's okay. We will have to be patient in that regard."
In his inaugural season at the helm of the Zips, Jared Embick previously served as the associate head coach and was the 2010 National Assistant Coach, owning a 110-13-16 record while on staff. Akron returns nine letterwinners from the 2012 squad that finished 18-1-3 overall and won the Mid-American conference regular season and tournament title with an undefeated conference record. The Zips are led by Eric Stevenson (3-4-10), Reinaldo Brenes (4-1-9) and Adam Najem (3-2-8). In goal, Fernando Pina owns a 0.58 GAA with a .795 Sv%, playing in the entirety of Akron's 13 games this season.
Mastering the MAC
Wednesday marks the Spartans' fourth match up of the season against a member of the Mid-American Conference as MSU has already taken down Western Michigan (Aug. 30), Bowling Green (Sept. 18) and Northern Illinois (Sept. 28). All-time, the Spartans own a 130-52-18 record against the current members of the MAC. The Zips are currently atop the Mid-American conference with a record of 3-1-0. Leading the MAC with only eight goals allowed, Akron holds a conference-best seven shutouts and a 0.58 GAA.
The `Golden' Win
In addition to earning the first Big Ten win of the season and defeating Northwestern in Evanston for the first time in his career, the dramatic victory on Oct. 6 also marked Damon Rensing's 50th career win as head coach.
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.
Ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten by TopDrawerSoccer.com, Kevin Cope returns for his final season as a team captain for the Spartans. He was recognized on TopDrawerSoccer.com'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 TopDrawerSoccer.com'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 TopDrawerSoccer.com's top-100.
After heading in the game-winning goal to defeat Northwestern 3-2 in double overtime, Adam Montague was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week on Oct. 7 and the College Soccer Madness Big Ten Player of the Week on Oct. 8. Playing a key role in the Spartans back-to-back road wins, he also put a rebound in the back of the net to top UIC, 2-0.
Receiving some well-deserved recognition, Fatai Alashe was named National Player of the Week on Oct. 1 by TopDrawerSoccer.com. With Kevin Cope currently out of the backline, midfielder/defender Fatai Alashe expanded his position on the field and lent his skills where the MSU needed them most. The veteran Spartan put Michigan State on the board with a goal at No. 3 Creighton on Sept. 24 and added an assist in the home victory over North Illinois on Sept. 28.
Following his first goal scored of the 2013 season in the Spartans' shutout win over Northern Illinois, sophomore Jay Chapman was named Big Ten Player of the Week by College Soccer Madness on Oct. 1. He recorded five shots and a game-winning goal to put the Spartans on the board over the Huskies, and earned an assist in the 2-2 draw against No. 3 Creighton.
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.
En route to accomplishing a team goal of winning the state of Michigan, the Spartans scored a goal in the first 13 seconds of the game against Oakland. They went on to blank the Grizzlies, 3-0 to earn the seventh shutout this season.
As the Spartans earned a dramatic win over conference leader Northwestern on Oct. 6 in their first Big Ten game of the season, it also marked the first time that Michigan State has beaten the Wildcats in Evanston since 2001. The game was also the first double-overtime win for the Spartans since they defeated Indiana in Bloomington in 2009.
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
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 51-35-12 (.583) in his five seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts a 130-75-23 (.619) 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 was the first game (Oct. 13), and the other home game which will be shown is the Nov. 5 matchup with Notre Dame. In addition to the games against Valparaiso (Sept. 8) and Penn State (Oct. 20), the Spartans game against Michigan (Nov. 9) will also 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.
Follow along with the game through live stats available at GoZips.com and follow @MSUMSoccer on twitter for play-by-play updates during the game.
The Spartans will head back to Big Ten play as they travel to Wisconsin on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. ET.