Written by: Billyle Alman, Michael Kroodsma
Considering that Michigan’s loss Wednesday was to out-of-conference Western Michigan, the season still looks bright for the Wolverines. A narrow loss to State hurts their hopes of a conference title, and a slip up at Western could damage a national bid. Still, the Michigan resume looks pretty strong.
The Spartans have been seen at #1 in some polls this week and Western Michigan may be the nation’s most underrated team. Conceding just 1 goal in each match, it’s safe to say that defeating this Michigan team will not be an easy task for anyone left on their schedule.
Questions remain for this side, however, in their experience. Are these players mature enough to overturn their recent form and find a result against Northwestern on Sunday? We know that the leaders - Robbie Mertz, Marcello Borges, Billy Stevens and Ivo Cerda - can get this group back on track.
The depth in the roster at the moment also raises some questions. Francis Atuahene wasn’t involved at Western on Wednesday. The Wolverines were also without both starting center backs Daniel Mukuna and Abdou Samake. Their replacements, Peter Brown and Jackson Ragen (who were both viewed as potential starters entering the season) held their own against WMU and are viable options this Sunday. However, they still lack the brute force and decision making that make the Mukuna-Samake pairing so imposing.
The answer for the men this weekend is simple – they must score goals. Players like Jack Hallahan and Mohammed Zakyi can help strengthen the national bid by finding their form in the second half of this season. Despite recent results, this is capable offensive side that are due for a couple on Sunday. Could it be a Tristan Jacob set-piece that unlocks their potential? Or a bit of #MertzMagic? Whatever the case may be, Michigan need to play to their strengths and find a way to hit the back of the net.
Although Michigan’s depth may be lacking through injuries to several key figures, we’ll be looking for Coach Daley's men to apply pressure early on against the Wildcats. This group plays with a completely different energy when they find a first half goal. An early goal at home vs Wisconsin had Michigan looking like a guaranteed Sweet 16 group. We hope the Wolverines recapture their swagger in front of the home fans this weekend.
Michigan hosts Northwestern at UMSS this Sunday at noon. Tickets to Sunday’s Match can be found here.