Written by: Billyle Alman
Michigan earned a 1-0 victory Friday night when they hosted William & Mary. The wolverines secured this victory without a single minute played by Francis Atuahene, and only 20+ minutes played by lone goal scorer, Mohammed Zakyi. Michigan fas are patiently awaiting to see if these standouts will be available tonight.
Andrew Verdi was given the start at GK in Michigan’s regular season opener. He was given MSN’s first ever, Man of the Match after he recorded just one save. His value was made in organization in addition to his two big tackles made outside of the 18.
Michigan’s back line in the regular season opener included Marcello Borges, Daniel Mukuna, Abdou Samake, and Billy Stevens. These four men clocked all 90 minutes in an amazing clean sheet that opposed William & Mary’s preseason All-American forward, Antonio Bustamante.
The visiting Crusaders kicked off their 2017 regular season this past Friday as well. Valpo visited, Big Ten Contender, Northwestern in Evanston in a contest that saw the Crusaders strike first. Northwestern was able to equalizer later on and eventually win the contest in overtime, but this is a capable Valpo side that does not fear Big Ten opponents.
As both clubs will enter this match on short rest, the task is greater for this Valpo side as it marks their second consecutive away match. These early Big Ten tests for Valpo says a lot about the confidence and trust for Head Coach, Mike Avery.
According to valpoathletics.com, “The Crusaders enter Monday’s match attempting to secure their first victory against the Wolverines, who have captured the first six head-to-head meetings. The two programs first squared off in 1989 and did so most recently in 2015. Since 2012, all three games between the two teams have been decided by just one goal. The Crusaders have held their own against a quality Michigan side, which was ranked 20th nationally at the time of the 2013 meeting.”
mgoblue.com previewed the matchup adding, “Valparaiso, Picked to finish sixth in the seven-team Missouri Valley Conference, the Crusaders find themselves in a new conference after going 10-5-4 in their final season in the Horizon League and matching the best win mark in program history. With only 10 returning players from last season's squad, the side will lean heavily on senior Ramone Howell, who was named to the MVC preseason all-conference team after scoring three goals to go along with two helpers a season ago.”
Ramone Howell should receive the early attention of Michigan as they settle in to the rest of the Valpo lineup. The Jamaican product Howell, who gained summer experience with PDL side Des Moines Menace, is an experienced Senior that should provide an interesting matchup for the young Wolverine midfield.
With three days recovery after tonight’s contest to get ready for Friday’s matchup vs Cleveland State, we think the 2017 debut of Francis happens tonight. Mohammed Zakyi’s pull-up Friday looked like a hamstring, if not just a cramp. Coaches may choose to rest him, but we trust he will be available soon if not tonight as well.
Our challenge is for Verdi and the defense. We were thoroughly impressed by that unit on Friday, and we think they are capable of another clean sheet against a traveling Valpo side on short rest.
That said, Valpo struck first in their regular season opener at Northwestern. Look for Michigan to apply the pressure early, as this group seems most comfortable playing with a lead early on in 2017.