Oct. 28, 2011
Michigan State welcomes archrival Michigan to DeMartin Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 30th. The conference matchup is slated to begin at noon and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
The All-Time Series
MSU owns a 26-5-5 record all-time against the Wolverines, which includes a 13-1-3 mark in games that have been played in East Lansing. However, many of those matchups came before Michigan elevated its men's soccer team to varsity status in 2010. Since UM elevated the program, MSU holds a 9-4-1 edge in the series.
In the 11 games between the squads for the Big Bear Trophy (regular-season meetings), the Spartans own an 8-2-1 edge, with the tie coming in 2006 (1-1, 2OT) in Ann Arbor. In the two years that Michigan has won the trophy (2003, 2010), it has snapped three straight victories in the series by MSU.
The Wolverines hold a two-game winning streak in this series overall, with regular-season (3-2, OT) and Big Ten Tournament (2-1) victories during the 2010 season.
The Big Bear Trophy
UM head coach Steve Burns and former MSU mentor Joe Baum introduced the Big Bear Trophy for the rekindled MSU-UM rivalry in 2000, when Michigan elevated its highly-successful club team to varsity status. There was some initial discussion on whether this wooden trophy looked more like a bear, or an owl - but the creature features one blue eye and one green eye.
Said Burns at the time, "Coach Baum and I wanted to have some kind of trophy for this rivalry that the teams can pass back and forth. We hope that it takes a life on its own."
State of the Spartans
MSU is 5-7-4 on the season, with all of its losses by a single goal and two of its losses coming in overtime. The Spartans are unbeaten in their last three games, a 2-1 win over in-state rival Western Michigan on Wednesday being the most recent result.
Last week, MSU had to settle on a pair of deadlocks - 0-0 in a midweek tilt against Bowling Green, and an emotional 2-2 tie at No. 13 Indiana in which the Spartans rallied from a 2-0 deficit.
Its a Factor
Three significant injuries have taken two All-Big Ten players out of the lineup - Domenic Barone was lost for the season before it began, and Kevin Cope was injured in the second game of the year against Connecticut - and Tim Kreutz will not play at all this season as well.
Among the Brethren
Michigan State enters the weekend in fourth place in the Big Ten standings, but will complete its Conference schedule on Sunday with Michigan. The other six teams will complete their conference schedules next weekend.
At 1-2-2, the Spartans must defeat Michigan and needs Indiana to falter in its two final Big Ten games to move up in the standings. Michigan is right behind MSU, at 1-3-0.
Freshman Adam Montague is tied for fifth place in the Big Ten in points (12), is tied for seventh in goals (4), and is tied with Mark Barone and Cyrus Saydee for fifth in the Big Ten in assists. Jeremy Clark ranks fifth in GAA (0.99), is second in saves (61), fourth in save percentage (.782), and is tied for fifth in shutouts (3).
In conference statistics only - on which the All-Big Ten teams are selected - Montague is second in the Big Ten in points (6), second in goals (3), and fourth in goals per game (0.6). Jeremy Clark is third in GAA (1.10), second in saves (19), third in saves per game (3.8), and fourth in save percentage (.760).
MSU freshman Fatai Alashe will face off against his older brother, Latif, who is a midfielder for the Wolverines. Latif was a member of the All-Big Ten Freshman team two years ago, and helped UM to the College Cup last season.
In six of MSU's 16 games, MSU has seen overtime periods. The Spartans have lost twice in overtime in golden goal situations, to Detroit in the season opener and to Georgetown in the second OT period. MSU settled on 1-1 deadlocks with Marquette and Northwestern on the road, played to a 0-0 tie with Bowling Green here last Wednesday, and then the 2-2 tie with Indiana on the road this past Sunday.
Late Goals Lead to Decisions
In seven of MSU's 16 games, late goals have been decision-making tallies. The Spartans have lost twice in overtime in golden goal situations, and allowed a marker with less than three minutes left in regulation at Northwestern to forge a 1-1 tie in the Big Ten opener.
On the reverse side, MSU has twice gotten late goals from freshman Kyle Rutz - in the 79th minute to break a deadlock in a 2-1 win over UIC, and in the 86th minute this past Wednesday for the eventual game-winner over Western Michigan. Fatai Alashe's goal in the 83rd minute forced a tie at Marquette on Sept. 16, and Adam Montague's tally in the 77th minute secured the Spartan's victory over Milwaukee. All three players are freshmen.
Playing from Behind
MSU has scored the first goal of the game in only five of its matches this season- in the 3-0 shutout at New Hampshire, in the Big Ten games against Northwestern and Penn State, against Milwaukee, and most recently, the win over Western Michigan. The game against New Hampshire is also the only game that MSU has played this season in which one of the teams scored more than two goals.
Last Years, First Years Contributing
Each of MSU's 17 goals this season has been scored by either a senior or a freshman. Freshman Adam Montague leads the team in scoring with four goals and four assists. Senior Rubin Bega has three goals, while senior Mark Barone and freshman Kyle Rutz each have two. Seniors Cyrus Saydee, Joe Paljaj, Stephen Lucianek, and Garret Back all have one marker. Freshmen Fatai Alashe and Ryan Keener each have one score as well.
Last Time Out
Coming off a pair of double-overtime deadlocks last week, the 2-1 victory for MSU men's soccer over Western Michigan on Wednesday was a welcome sight for the team. Freshman Kyle Rutz had the game-winner as well as an assist in the win, and Adam Montague assisted on both tallies.
The first great scoring chance of the game came in the 18th minute, as the Broncos lined up for a free kick just above the top of the box. The strike by Kai Mendes was punched high over the crossbar by Clark, preserving the scoreless tie.
In the 25th minute, the Spartans took a 1-0 lead. Adam Montague had taken a feed from Rutz and put a shot on net that keeper Sean Lewis got a hand on for a save. The ball came out into the box, where Rubin Bega fired it into the right side of the net for his third goal of the season.
The teams battled through most of the second half without a score, but two goals ended up on the board in the final three minutes of the game. It looked like Western had a great opportunity to tie the game with seven minutes remaining, and Jason Grant took the free kick from outside the box. Clark, who finished the day with three saves, got a hand on it to tip it out of harm's way.
Western continued to push in the waning minutes of regulation for an equalizer, but the Spartans were able to add a bit of insurance. In the 86th minute, the Spartans got a second goal - off a pass from Montague, Rutz potted his second goal of the season. Cyrus Saydee also assisted on the play, as he got it to Montague deep on the left side, and Montague slotted it for Rutz.
That insurance goal proved valuable. With 2:27 remaining in the game, Western Michigan broke up the shutout. Darren Jones carried the ball up the left side and centered it for Mendes, and Mendes' shot deflected off a defender in front and into the back of the net.
Due for an extra period?
In 11 games this season, the Spartans have gone to overtime six times, and each of its last five OT games has gone to the second overtime session. MSU is 0-2-4i n games which needed extra time.
Back Down from No One
Head Coach Damon Rensing's scheduling philosophy has always been to challenge his teams with a difficult schedule - and 2011 is no different. The Spartans line up against nine teams which qualified for the 2010 NCAA Tournament and MSU has already tangled with then-No. 5 UConn (which is No. 1 in the first RPI report), and No. 22 Notre Dame in non-conference action. The Spartans will also take on defending National Champion Akron next week to wrap up their schedule.
MSU has converted just one of three penalty kick opportunities this season, with Cyrus Saydee netting MSU's first of the season in the game against UIC (9/27). MSU missed a pair or penalty kick opportunities in the game against Georgetown, including one in the first overtime session.
Top Drawer Soccer has released their top 100 freshmen in Division I, and three first-year Spartan players are among that top 100: Fatai Alashe is ranked #44, Cody Henderson is #66, and the team's leading scorer, Adam Montague, is #86.
Second Half Offense
Eleven of MSU's 17 goals this season have come after halftime. MSU has allowed 10 of its 11 goals after the intermission, including two in overtime.
The Big Ten Network will air 10 men's soccer games this fall, and of the nine that were announced, three will feature Michigan State in Big Ten Conference matchups at DeMartin Stadium. That package includes Sunday's MSU-Michigan game for the Big Bear Trophy. The Spartans hosted Ohio State on Oct. 2 and Penn State a week later on Oct. 9.
The Spartans travel Akron next week to wrap up their regular season.