Written by: Michael Kroodsma
The Wolverines return to UMSS following a successful trip to Pennsylvania (See our "Take-Aways" section for more on that result). At 3-1-1 in Big Ten play, Michigan find themselves sitting 3rd in what is surely the most difficult conference in Division 1 soccer. Despite the slip up against a beatable Oakland team just over a week ago, U of M will enter this weekend's match up full of confidence and raring to go.
The 2-1 victory against Penn State will help the mood in Ann Arbor heading into Friday evening's clash against Rutgers. So too will the apparent return to form of Francis Atuahene. His total of 4 shots on target Sunday was a match high, and despite not hitting the back of the net, it certainly seems like the Ghanaian is back at full strength. Expect big things from Francis Friday against a Rutgers back line that has allowed 14 goals in just 5 Big Ten matches this season.
One to watch - Jack Hallahan. The Ireland Under-19 International is back at his best following his show stopping performance this weekend. It was his assist on Mohammed Zakyi's 71st minute equalizer, before turning from provider to finisher, winning the match with just 35 seconds left in the second overtime period (it was some hit, too). Keep your eyes on number 11 flying down the right wing Friday night.
Tactically speaking, we're still not certain how the Wolverines will line up against Rutgers - though facing a weaker back line should mean we'll see the boys in Maize and Blue come out and press the visitors early on. However, if U of M don't find an early goal, don't be surprised to see the tempo decrease. Coach Daley likes to slow the match down through possession, with Marc Ybarra and Robbie Mertz operating in Defensive and Attacking midfield positions respectively to try and unlock the opposition. The pair draw a lot of attention in the middle of the park, which opens up space for U of M's dangerous wingers to exploit.
Our prediction - Michigan walk away from this one comfortable winners, 3-0.
Tickets to this Friday's match can be found here.