Soccer Takes On Defending Champs In Regular-Season Finale
Men's Soccer Preview
Nov. 1, 2011
Michigan State (6-7-4, 2-2-2 B1G) travels to Ohio to tangle with defending National Champion and current No. 6 Akron (12-2-3, 5-0 MAC) in a midweek tilt. A free video stream of this game will be available at www.MAC-Sports.com
MSU owns a 10-23-1 mark all-time in the series, but all 10 wins came in consecutive seasons at the start of the rivalry. The Zips have gone 23-0-1 against MSU in the last 24 games played between the schools, which includes a 1-0 decision a year ago in East Lansing.
MSU is 6-7-4 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 four games, and have posted a record of 4-1-2 since Oct. 4. Last week, MSU posted a 2-1 midweek victory over in-state foe Western Michigan, then downed archrival Michigan, 1-0, on Sunday to reclaim the Big Bear Trophy.
Akron holds an unbeaten streak of 48 matches at home, an NCAA record. The National Championship team lost seven starters to the MLS Drafts, but retained and recruited enough firepower to still remain among the top 10 teams in the nation and in great position for another postseason run. Most recently, Akron played to a 2-2 draw with Wake Forest.
Darren Mattocks is the squad's leading scorer with 17 goals and three assists, which includes five game-winning markers. Scott Caldwell and Thomas Schmitt each have five goals, while Caldwell holds the team lead in assists with 10. David Meves is the junior keeper who has earned each of Akron's 17 decisions, and he boasts a 0.61 GAA and .796 save percentage.
Senior keeper Jeremy Clark made nine saves in his fourth shutout of the year and redshirt freshman Ryan Keener headed in the game's only goal on a corner play as Michigan State took back the Big Bear Trophy with a 1-0 victory over Michigan.
The first half was a scoreless affair, but the second half was not only full of action, but saw increased aggressiveness both on and off the ball, which led to an entertaining half of soccer for the more than 2,400 fans in attendance.
The Spartans kept coming at the Wolverine defense in waves. In the 72nd minute, the Spartans had an odd-man rush , and Adam Montague pushed a nice pass to Mark Barone over on the left side. Barone's shot was punched away by keeper Adam Grinwis to preserve the scoreless tie. Grinwis wasn't so lucky on MSU's next grade-A chance, as Ryan Keener headed in the game's only goal off a corner play in the 74th minute.
The Wolverines pushed for an equalizer, and forced Clark to make five saves in the final stretch of the game to earn the 1-0 shutout. MSU snapped a two-game losing streak to its archrival, both UM victories coming in the 2010 regular season and Big Ten Tournament.
Senior goalkeeper Jeremy Clark earned the Big Ten's Defensive Co-Player of the Week honors, as announced by the Big Ten office on Monday. It is the second such honor for the keeper this season. Clark shared the weekly award with Ohio State's Matt Lampson.
Clark made three saves in a midweek victory over in-state rival Western Michigan, and was stellar in the Spartans' showdown on Sunday afternoon with archrival Michigan. The Spartan keeper made five saves over the final five minutes of the game and nine on the day overall, to anchor Michigan State to the 1-0 victory over the Wolverines.
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. Meanwhile, sophomore Tim Kreutz has missed the entirety of the season as well. Combined with the nagging injuries and usual bumps and bruises that players battle throughout the year, the medical list has been a significant factor for the Spartans all season.
Michigan State enters the final week of the regular season in fifth place in the Big Ten standings, but completed its Conference schedule last Sunday with Michigan. The other six teams will complete their conference schedules this weekend.
The best that the Spartans could do would be to tie Indiana for fourth place, should the Hoosiers lose this weekend; however, the Spartans cannot fall below fifth place. .
Freshman Adam Montague is tied for seventh place in the Big Ten in points (12), is tied for eighth in goals (4), and is tied with Mark Barone for seventh in the Big Ten in assists. Senior Cyrus Saydee is fifth in the conference in assists with five. Jeremy Clark ranks fourth in GAA (0.94), is second in saves (70), second in save percentage (.805), and is fifth in shutouts (4).
In conference statistics only - on which the All-Big Ten teams are selected - Montague is fourth in the Big Ten in points (6), second in goals (3), and fourth in goals per game (0.5). Jeremy Clark leads the conference in save percentage (.824), shutouts (2) and saves (28), second in saves per game (4.67), and is third in GAA (0.93).
In six of MSU's 17 games, the Spartans have been forced to play 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 on Oct. 19, and then the 2-2 tie with Indiana on the road on Oct. 23.
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 last Wednesday for the eventual game-winner over Western Michigan. Fatai Alashe'sgoal 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. Most recently, Ryan Keener's header in the 73rd minute was the difference in a 1-0 victory over Michigan. All four of those players are freshmen.
MSU has scored the first goal of the game in only six 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.
Each of MSU's 18 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 freshmen Ryan Keener and Kyle Rutz each have two. Seniors Cyrus Saydee, Joe Paljaj, Stephen Lucianek, and Garret Back all have one marker. Freshmen Fatai Alashe has one score as well.
In 17 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 0-2-4 in games which needed extra time.
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 have lined 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 wrap up the regular season against the defending National Champion Zips on Wednesday.
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.
Twelve of MSU's 18 goals this season have come after halftime. MSU has allowed 10 of its 17 goals after the intermission, including two in overtime.
The Big Ten Network has aired nine men's soccer games this fall, and, three featured Michigan State in Big Ten Conference matchups at DeMartin Stadium. The Spartans hosted Ohio State on Oct. 2 and Penn State a week later on Oct. 9, then also last week's game with Michigan. The Spartans were 2-1 in their televised games this season.
The Spartans must wait for the regular season to conclude this weekend to see how the seeds fall for the Big Ten Tournament, which begins next Wednesday in Ann Arbor.