Senior nights are always full of emotion no matter the sport at the collegiate level. This afternoon was no different, but the bittersweet match had a positive end result as the Wolverines took down Maryland 2-1 in overtime in what was a crucial three points in not just the Big Ten standings, but NCAA Tournament resume building.
Michigan started off immediately as the aggressors, with a couple quick chances. Robbie Mertz found Noah Kleedtke well down the right wing in the sixth minute, and Kleedtke sent a cross into the box for Lucas Rosendall, but the winger could not direct the cross into the goal. Additionally, in the 13th, Jack Hallahan showed off his brilliant footwork and slipped Kleedtke through, but the senior could not get proper footing and sent a fairly tame effort at Maryland netminder Dayne St. Clair.
The pressure was near constant by Michigan on Maryland. Maryland had seven shots in the first half, including forcing a handful of saves out of Henry Mashburn, but very little actually troubled the Michigan defense, which stood strong. Maryland’s best chance came two minutes after the Kleedtke chance with Paul Bin firing a shot at Mashburn, but Mashburn got enough to keep it out near post. The few chances Maryland did have, though, ultimately amounted to very few that actually troubled Michigan.
Michigan would finally get a breakthrough of their own. Rosendall did brilliantly to keep the ball in Michigan possession at the top of his area of the box and then switched wings with Hallahan. Hallahan then sent a brilliant cross into the box aimed at Kleedtke, but the nature of the cross and attempt by junior defender Donovan Pines meant it was directed into the net by the Maryland defender. It was 1-0 to Michigan and would remain that way into the halftime break.
The chances for Michigan started immediately in the second half with a three-on-one happening on a break in the 48th minute. Umar Farouk Osman took the ball centrally, sent Robbie Mertz through on the left, and the senior midfielder beat the keeper, but it was sophomore defender Matt Di Rosa of Maryland that made the save with a sliding goal-line clearance. Michigan’s opportunity to double their lead was snuffed out with a brilliant bit of defensive work.
Following this, Michigan was put under more pressure by the Terrapins. In the 66th, it was leading goal-scorer Amar Sejdic who forced a vital save out of Mashburn to keep the game level. Then, just two minutes later, Justin Gielen found his fellow freshman Brayan Padilla on the left with only the keeper to beat, but Padilla drilled the shot high and Mashburn was untroubled. Still, these were just two of the opportunities that Maryland got in a more impressive second half.
In the 78th minute, all the chances and half-chances by the away team came to a head. Off a corner kick, Sebastian Elney headed the ball in off the post, but it was not cleared from danger. Freshman defender Brett St. Martin was right there for the follow to drill the ball into the net to Mashburn’s right. The Michigan goalie never had a chance, and the goal meant the match was leveled as we’d head into overtime.
Overtime took 34 seconds. That’s all Hallahan needed to be slotted through by Robbie Mertz to finish the game. It was a crucial finish for the winger and a lovely moment for the hard-working senior midfielder. The victory meant that Michigan gets another match on their home field and, more immediately, it was a brilliant bit of emotion-provoking joy for the home crowd.
First off, the positive: This was an all around solid effort by Michigan to limit Maryland on open play attacking chances. The Terrapins were frustrated often and their attempts to release striker Sebastian Elney, the senior from Florida, were generally for naught as Abdou Samake shadowed him brilliantly. Open play attack opportunities were at a serious premium. A defense that has just allowed 13 goals is expected to be stout but, even when missing two of their typical starters (Daniel Mukuna and Austin Swiech) from injury, this performance under some solid pressure — especially in the second half, and despite allowing a goal — was promising.
When thinking about Michigan’s man of the match, Jack Hallahan surely has to come to mind, not even just for that lovely overtime finish. While he may not get an assist for his stellar delivery on the own goal, his ball is what put Michigan up a little over a half hour into this match. His consistent delivery and runs on the wing made him a constant nuisance on the right wing and in a second half where Michigan was a bit more on the defensive, he was a positive force in the attack.
Michigan will now host a Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal match on November 4th against Penn State. An Indiana win was needed for Michigan to propel to the third seed. The win doled Michigan State a defeat, keeping them level with Michigan on points with 14. Because they drew, the tiebreaker the Big Ten uses is conference goal differential, which Michigan holds over MSU +5-to-+3. What is important though is that postseason soccer is coming to UMSS and the senior class are guaranteed one more match on home turf.