Written by: Michael Kroodsma
Before this match, we predicted Michigan would win easily by a 3-0 scoreline. We weren’t that far off. The Wolverines took control of this game from the first kick and never looked back. A Rutgers goal in the final ten minutes of the first half made things a little more interesting, but U of M never looked like letting this one slip through their fingers.
The match burst to life in the 7th minute when Robbie Mertz’s offensive pressure paid off. He fed the ball through to Mohammed Zakyi, who picked out Ivo Cerda in the box with a perfect cross and Ivo tapped in to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.
Straight from the kick off there could have been a second goal - Francis Atuahene’s pressure this time the difference. He dribbled to the top of the box before laying the ball off for Mertz, who saw his effort palmed to safety by the Rutgers keeper.
It was clear that Rutgers were teetering, though, and in the 20th minute the game looked to be put out of reach for the visitors. Zakyi was again involved, this time linking up with Atuahene down the left. Francis slammed his low drive past the keeper and into the bottom right corner to double the lead. Michigan were cruising.
Ten minutes before the break, Rutgers got one back. A long ball played to the back post found the head of Rutger’s Striker Ryan Peterson. No one picked up his run and he guided his header past an outstretched Andrew Verdi to keep Rutgers in the match.
There was a slight momentum shift as Rutgers worked to capitalize again before the break, but never really came close and the sides went in level.
In the second half it was clear that Coach Chaka Daley had calmed the nerves. Michigan were back in the ascendancy, dominating the possession and creating opportunities at every turn.
With just 12 minutes gone in the second half Atuahene grabbed the third goal (and his second) of the match to finish Rutgers off. Thanks to a deflection that fell kindly for him, Francis found himself with just the keeper to beat inside the box. He confidently curled the ball around the keeper, and despite a slight touch on it, the ball still tucked itself in the back of the net. At 3-1, and with Michigan really clicking, the result never looked in doubt from then on.
This was more a ‘must not lose’ situation than it was a ‘must win’ situation. This Rutgers team, with all due respect, is simply not as talented or capable as Michigan is, and a loss here could have really affected the men heading into the final 5 matches of the regular season. Thankfully, Michigan got the job done -in some style too!
First, we have to recognize the Man of the Match, Mohammed Zakyi. We wanted #MoGoals, and we got #MoAssists. The Ghanaian tied a single match U of M record, set by Ann Arbor legend Knox Cameron back in 2003, with 3 assists. Mo was clearly the "straw that stirred the drink" in this match. Each attack started or ended with his excellent wing play, and alongside Francis Atuahene and Jack Hallahan, there’s not a defense in the nation that will want to face these three.
Robbie Mertz also played a big role Friday evening. He controlled the middle of the park both when attacking and defending. He sent several moves on their way and stopped several counter attacks.
Questions remain in defense for this U of M side. Michigan conceded a weak goal on Friday evening, and against a better side, that certainly could have been a fatal mistake. It seems the Wolverines have worked out most of their kinks, but at this point in the season, the Wolverines can’t afford to concede weak goals. The likes of Maryland will punish any team that isn’t on high alert for the full 90 minutes.
Overall, we’re very happy with this performance. Mo and Francis were nightmares for the Scarlet Knights back line and despite the goal the visitors got, they never truly troubled Verdi in goal. At 4-1-1 in Big Ten Play, we believe that this Michigan team can cause problems for anyone in the country. The Big Ten is the strongest conference in the country and U of M are thriving in it. Expect a strong finish to the regular season from this side.