Michigan’s second match against a ranked opponent ended in similar disappointment as the first: a tough one-goal loss. Michigan did very well to equalize in the 57th minute and generally played a strong game, but two lapses in defense would ultimately bury the side against a clinical Fighting Irish team.
The game started on a negative note for the Wolverines as senior leader Ivo Cerda went down with an injury to his leg in the early minutes of the match. Cerda would try and continue on, but it was too much for the co-captain and he would see his evening end early. In his place, though, was Mohammed Zakyi making his long-awaited return from injury, albeit earlier in the match than Chaka Daley would have liked.
Things would get duller for Michigan in the tenth minute when Notre Dame found the net. It was a long throw from the Fighting Irish that Jackson Ragen’s head found, but not far enough. Thomas Ueland found his fourth goal of the season past Henry Mashburn who could not do anything about the senior winger’s hit putting Michigan in an early hole.
Daniel Mukuna would be Michigan’s savior in the 17th with a key clearance on a surging Aiden McFadden. The Englishman was the last man back on defense and made sure the sophomore would not get through. After this, however, Michigan swung momentum in their direction. Mohammed Zakyi had the best chance with a brilliant long shot nearly catching 6’7” Duncan Turnbull off his line and forcing a save.
The second half started off with limited opportunities for either side, but as has been the case many times, it was a moment of magic from Jack Hallahan that put the Wolverines of the board. Zakyi found Marcello Borges with one of the finest wing-swapping passes you will ever see. Borges found Robbie Mertz, Mertz found Hallahan who shifted more centrally to receive the ball, and at the top of the box with his weaker foot he found the net in the 57th to tie the match up.
Michigan continued to build well, but in the 68th minute it was a lapse in judgment by the generally rock solid Daniel Mukuna who committed a penalty by shoving a man in blue down in the box. Sean MacLeod, a former Rangers youth player and Everton youth trialist, stepped up to take and the senior Scotsman was cool from the spot forcing Mashburn to guess wrong. The goal gave the Fighting Irish the advantage and they would not relinquish. Despite Michigan’s best efforts, include putting Jackson Ragen up top, the chasing Wolverines could not snag their second equalizer and would see triple zeroes hit and receive just their third loss of the season.
Michigan were dealt a massive blow early in the match with Ivo Cerda’s injury. The central midfielder is huge in the set-up of the Wolverines and the shift of Umar Farouk Osman to a more central role represented a much more attacking formation as Mohammed Zakyi made his reintroduction to the side with a nice performance on the left wing. He looked sharp and his ball from the right wing to the left up to Borges was the catalyst for the equalizing goal. His play is going to be important in the final stretch and postseason of this Michigan season.
It was also another brilliant performance by left back Marcello Borges who has had no problem finding his form after his earlier injury. Borges is composed down the wing and provides an offensive spark at almost all times. His overlapping runs are nightmares for opposing wingers and full backs and the fact that he is great with both his feet makes him difficult for even the best players and he is certainly going to be a strong professional player in the future.
The lack of a season-defining win may scare fans, but it should be noted that Michigan do still have some solid teams left on the schedule. Despite just one of the three remaining opponents being ranked, the metric of RPI tells more to the story of the remaining matches. Michigan are now staring at a pair of games with teams in similar standing of RPI — Michigan sit #46, Wisconsin at #64, Maryland at #33. A win over this Notre Dame side who sit #5 in RPI would have been nice, but the upcoming Big Ten matches are what will well and truly define this season.
Michigan heads on the road later this week on Friday as 7 PM to take on Wisconsin, who currently sit fourth in the Big Ten. They venture over to the current #13 team in the country Michigan State next Tuesday in the Battle for the Big Bear at 8 PM. Finally, the Wolverines return home on October 28th for the final regular season match of the season, at home at 4 PM against Maryland.