Written by: Michael Kroodsma
Following a successful home opener last weekend, the University of Michigan looked to keep the momentum going Monday night as they took on Valparaiso.
Despite heavy rainfall in the hours leading up to kick off, the Wolverines took the field as planned and looked ready to go from the off. The slick pitch allowed for a faster-than-normal pace to the match, and the Wolverines looked extremely comfortable with the tempo in the early going.
U of M looked certain to score – coming close early on through defender Daniel Mukuna. Jack Hallahan’s free kick found a wide-open Mukuna, who pushed his header just wide of the back post.
Hallahan was making moves throughout the first half, and it was his shot later on that forced the only real save of the first half. After collecting at the top of the box, he cut the ball onto his left foot and unleashed a vicious strike. The Valpo keeper wasequal to it, making a strong diving save.
Despite plenty of possession for the Wolverines, neither side were able to capitalize in the first half and the sides went in level at the break, 0-0.
In the second half, Valparaiso came out on a mission. Within the first minute of the second half they were in on goal. This came as a shock to the Wolverines, who looked to hit back immediately.
Unfortunately, the Wolverine attack left space at the back and Valpo exploited that space to take the lead on 69 minutes.
With large numbers committed forward, Valpo received the ball inside their own half and broke out quickly on the counter attack. After a long ball over the top, a deflected cross fell to Crusaders striker Jordan James, who calmly passed the ball past Andrew Verdi to make it 1-0.
With just 20 minutes remaining, Michigan seemed to have lost control of the game, gifting several chances to the visitors. Valparaiso were unable to make the most of their chances, and it would come back to bite them.
In the 84th minute, some excellent link up play between Robbie Mertz and Marcello Borges, the ball fell to Lukas Rosendall in the box. His pass found Jack Hallahan, and this time the winger made the most of his chance, powering the ball into the back of the net.
With the score locked at 1-1, despite several great opportunities to grab a winner, the sides headed into overtime.
With the majority of possession in the match, the better chances throughout and the home support, the Wolverines looked poised to grab a dramatic winner at the death. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, and Valparaiso hung on to take a 1-1 draw from U of M.
This looked like a completely different side from the team who took on William and Mary last Friday night … at least in the first half.
The opening 45 minutes came up all Maize and Blue. The wet surface created a tricky environment but you could tell that U of M were locked in from the start. They zipped the ball past the opponent with ease and looked certain to get on the score sheet. They dominated possession, and stifled the opposition with an intelligent game plan.
The second half was a different story – especially after Valparaiso scored. Suddenly the dangerous, pacey Wolverine team, who was so composed defensively in the opening half, looked out of sorts. There were new spaces at the back, which Valpo exploited several times, and to good effect. Truthfully, the Wolverines were lucky to be down only 1.
Then, in the blink of an eye, they were back. Jack Hallahan pulled one back and forced overtime. UMich dominated the final 15 minutes of regulation as well as both overtimes.
In the end, it was an incomplete performance, despite a resilient effort to get back in the game. There was a seemingly glaring reason for this - the options at striker.
With Mohammed Zakyi and Fracis Authene both out injuried, the main goal scoring duries fell to Lucas Rosendall and Johann Bittner.
Despite a good run out from both, they are simply different players than the seasoned Authene and the dynamic Zakyi. When those two are out of the picture, Michigan have struggled to find goals this season.
The good news is – it’s extremely early. This is a young team, with a lot of talent. What the side needs is time.
With a couple days off before Friday’s clash with Cleveland State, you can expect the Wolverines to re-tool a few aspects minor aspects of their gameplan. It may have been an incomplete performance, but when this UMich side is on – watch out.