Written by: Billyle Alman
Written by: Billyle Alman It may not be confirmed, but we are going to assume Francis Atuahene is ready to take the next step in joining his teammates in the starting XI this Friday. Ivo Cerda had a great opening performance in Monday’s outing as a forward, but we believe a healthy Francis will slide Ivo back into the central midfield.
Michigan enters this Big Ten Opener with an overall record of 3-0-1. As early as it is, the stats are impressive for this group when comparing to the 2016 season. With 6 goals for and only 2 against, the Wolverines have been able to secure 2 clean sheets in 4 contests. Questions heading into the season revolved around the uncertainty at center back and goalkeeper. An undefeated start through 4 games leads us to believe that this coaching staff feels comfortable with the individuals they have in those spots.
With those defensive areas covered, the most impressive stat comes in the form of goals. This group has not been shut out yet. Without some of their most explosive playmakers, they have been able to score at least 1 goal in each match this year. As newcomers like Osman, and hopefully Zakyi, continue to grow in Michigan's style of play, we believe goals will continue to come for this club.
Through three games, the Badgers visit Ann Arbor with a record of 1-0-2. Wisconsin earned their first win of the season in the clubs most recent home match against Grand Canyon U. Though Wisconsin returns some experienced players, they have allowed 4 goals in 3 games, three of which coming in road contests.
Wisconsin’s 3 players to watch all enter 2017 as seniors for the Badger program. Midfielder, Mike Catalano and Goalkeeper, Phillipp Schilling are preseason All Big-Ten honorees. The serious threat comes in the form of Hermann Trophy Watch List Forward, Chris Mueller.
According to uwbadgers.com, “Mueller earned All-America status after recording the best season of his collegiate career in 2016. Mueller was also selected to the All-Big Ten first team and Midwest All-Region first team last season, becoming the first Badger to earn the accolades since 2013 and just the 19th first-team All-Big Ten honoree in program history.”
Mueller totaled 27 points for his side last year and is perhaps the Big Ten’s most proven offensive threat. This senior’s experience combined with the rest of this talented Wisconsin side means they are capable of scoring goals at home or away. The optimism for the Wolverines can be found in Wisconsin’s most recent defensive form. Wisconsin may have the ability to visit Ann Arbor and hold a clean sheet, but there are goals to be had for Michigan. Even with a All Big-Ten Goalkeeper in Schilling, there are holes in this Badger defense. We are excited to see how Michigan comes out in the early minutes on Friday.
A loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener would not be the end of the world for Michigan, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier from here on out. Michigan’s recent form leads us to believe they will come out early looking for all 3. Michigan visits a national contender in Indiana next week, this is a great opportunity to grab some early Big Ten points before things get really difficult.
Player to watch for Michigan is Andrew Verdi. This goalkeeper will likely face more shots than ever before. Verdi has all the talent in the world, but is he ready to join the Big Ten’s elite?