Written by: Billyle Alman
The Michigan Wolverines hosted Dartmouth Monday for a Labor Day contest right here in Ann Arbor. As this side has been patiently awaiting the return of Francis Atuahene and Mohammed Zakyi, they were happy to welcome back Ivo Cerda into the starting XI.
Cerda jumped right into his 2017 debut as a target forward (#9). The Wolverines have been without major production at that spot since Zakyi went down in game one, and Coach Daley opted to use a experienced player at that spot, though it may not be his natural position.
Today’s matchup was the first time a visiting side chose to apply pressure early on. Dartmouth pressed high from the jump and possession seemed to be even through the first seven minutes. The challenge for the wolverines was to contain Dartmouth Forward, Eduvie Iboka who stood a good 6 foot 4 inches.
In the 8th minute after a positive Wolverine build out, Umar Farouk Osman was taken down in the box earning a penalty kick for the Maize and Blue. It was Ivo Cerda who stepped up to the spot for Michigan but his PK attempt was taken low with minimal pace resulting in a comfortable save for the Dartmouth keeper who guesses correctly diving right.
The pace of the game slowed down from there as the teams traded a much slower pace of possession for the next ten to fifteen minutes. The 32nd minute was an exciting one for Michigan as Francis Atuahene made his 2017 debut as a reserve entering the game for Ivo Cerda.
Atuahene’s activity level was high though he didn’t see the ball enough. Michigan closed out the half with a majority of the ball, but the sides entered the break level at 0-0.
Michigan entered the second half the way they started as Ivo Cerda started in place of Atuahene at forward. The Wolverines looked to be on the attack from the start in the second half. Osman flipped a switch and gave Dartmouth issues right away.
Francis re-entered the game in the 61st minute replacing Osman, trying a stint out on the left wing. As he was of course dangerous at times, he seemed to be pressing in search of success. As he was understandably rusty, he took some premature shots and dished some passes that were played too late.
Osman quickly re-entered the game for Cerda and pushed Francis back into his normal #9 role. As the game settled, Michigan was able to find the feet of Hallahan often down the right flank. It was Jack who saw the best chances in the second half as he was able to cut back onto his left and fire some shots on goal. Dartmouth did well to weather those chances and keep the game level.
Rusty touches and all, the difference came in the 82nd minute when playmaker Francis Atuahene took a clever touch from a Hallahan pass. Francis tucked the ball around his left foot, then was able to fire a shot low with his left foot out of reach from the goalkeeper giving the Wolverines the 1-0 lead late in the second half.
Dartmouth threw numbers forward in the closing minutes, but Michigan was able to stay steady defensively and hang on to the clean sheet. Michigan improved to 3-0-1 on the season.
Another quality win for the Maize and Blue. Was it ever so good to have Francis Atuahene back. Though Michigan turned up the pressure in the second half, the game was level heading into the final minutes. With a potential overtime looming, it was Francis who made the necessary play to put this group over the top. Just minutes after scoring the game winning goal, he was subbed off due to fitness, but as everyone in the Big Ten Conference knows, this is a scary team with a healthy Francis.
The return of Ivo Cerda has to be mentioned as well. His touches have been missed. He brings a certain calmness to this side that was lacking in previous games. We were happy with his play up top, but we will be delighted to see him return to the midfield.
We are continuously impressed by the play of Ybarra. The freshman seems to be locked in as the sitting #6 for this squad. A healthy Cerda could bump Tristan Jacob out of the midfield, but through 4 games this group has been the benefactor of 4 solid performances from Jacob.
The backline of Borges, Mukuna, Stevens and Samake earned another shutout today and looked poised to have many more in the future. Their solid effort combined with 3 saves from Verdi has to have this Michigan coaching staff feeling optimistic heading into Friday’s match vs Wisconsin.
Through four games this season, the most valuable player for the Wolverines has been Marcello Borges, in our opinion. He solves problems, creates chances and just brings a professional understanding of the game to this lineup. His skill combined with Billy Stevens' leadership, and the size and ability of the Michigan center backs, will keep this team in each match they play this year.