Written By: Michael Kroodsma
Michigan slumped to a 2-1 home defeat on Wednesday night against Oakland University. Only their second loss of the season, the Wolverines need to regroup and pick up an important conference victory on the road Sunday afternoon. Penn State has two wins on the season to date, coming against Saint Francis and Detroit Mercy (two notably less talented sides).
On paper, this is a winnable match. As demonstrated on Wednesday evening, it's the result that matters. If Michigan can focus in on this match and forget about the implications of its result, we feel it should be smooth sailing. That's not to say there aren't issues that need resolving first, though.
The central defensive pairing has been altered due to injuries in recent fixtures. Jackson Ragen and Peter Brown have filled in nicely, but it was Marcello Borges' absence from the side due to a suspected knee problem that felt like the biggest factor in Wednesday's defeat.
A supremely talented player, Marcello offers width, pace in the channels, and recovers extremely well to help shut down counter attacks. Oakland scored Wednesday night from two counter attacking situations. We aren't sure that we'll see Marcello return Sunday in Pennsylvania, but we are sure of one thing - if the Wolverines can't sort out the defensive situation quickly, it could be a long trip back to Ann Arbor.
Peter Brown filled in at left back on Wednesday, and while he had a decent match, he simply isn't the same player as Marcello. Sure, Peter offered a lot both going forward and defensively. He isn't quite as pacey as Marcello, however, and we have to wonder how both goals may have been handled with that pace in the back line.
Daniel Mukuna is still missing for the Maize and Blue as well. An imposing figure in the back line, Danny's absence was felt most when Oakland scored their first goal of the contest. An awkard 50-50 ball bounced kindly to head height for Oakland's Ricci, and he rose to meet it, guiding the ball past Verdi. Perhaps with Danny at the back that header isn't won by the Oakland striker - or at least, not as cleanly.
The bottom line - we can speculate all we like about what could have been, but the fact remains that defensive solidity will win the Wolverines games this year. A misfiring and not fully fit Francis Atuahene isn't scoring the amount of goals we expected. U of M have found goals in other ways, but not consistently. When Michigan take the lead, they need to keep it. If the defensive errors are erased, we see no reason why U of M can't walk away as comfortable winners on Sunday.