The first official match with students back in Ann Arbor was a success for the Wolverines, as they topped in-state rivals Western Michigan 3-2 thanks to a Golden Goal from Ivo Cerda.
The match started well enough for the Wolverines, but no clear chances fell for either side. That changed in the 13th minute when the Wolverines started a break up the left flank, something they did multiple times this match. Robbie Mertz sent the ball in the the box and Osman took the bait. He hit it on target and well with his left foot, but the deflection from a Bronco helped it past the keeper. Michigan were up quickly and well on their way.
Michigan continued to pressure the Broncos as they rarely allowed any opportunity for the visitors to feel comfortable with the ball in possession. It almost paid off as Austin Swiech charged forward on the right and sent a one-hop cross in. Mohammed Zakyi played a dummy and let the ball fall for Ivo Cerda, but Cerda sent it tamely into keeper Lukas Von Lienen's hands. Then, the next minute, a poor defensive clearance gave Zakyi the opportunity to send a diving effort at the net, but that was just barely wide.
Michigan continued to push forward as Mohammed Zakyi had a pair of strong chances as a result of goalie mishaps. In the 60th minute, Von Lienen could not keep hold of a corner kick and it fell to Zakyi. He had a shot, but was falling backwards and Jackson Ragen's attempt to get a head to it went for naught.
The good times eventually picked back up for Michigan. Lucas Rosendall was given a free kick in the 65th after a lovely run in solid territory. Ybarra took the kick and Ragen found it back post and hit it with a nice header. It was picture perfect from the two sophomores and doubled the Wolverines lead.
That said, Western Michigan would not go down without a fight. Donovan Michael beat Henry Mashburn in a one-on-one in the 72nd to make it a one goal game and set off a heated finish to the finish. Then, just under ten minutes later, it was center back Ben Thornton whose eyes must have lit up when seeing a loose ball free for his taking to level the game. Just like that, Michigan's lead was gone. Michigan could not take advantage of a handful of late chances, but were given an overtime boost when Thornton was sent off with a second yellow.
Overtime was never in question. The Wolverines pushed forward and found a winner seven minutes into the overtime period as Hallahan sent in a brilliant cross and Ivo Cerda got the winner with a sublime finish. It was brilliant from the Wolverines who showed great resolve to bring home a third win in a row.
This was a nice effort from the Wolverines, who lost their control for a rough ten minute stretch. They regained their composure after the brief lapse, continued pushing forward, and they never looked rattled. Even with the two goals conceded, there is so much good to take from this match, especially in terms of individual efforts.
Starting with left back Marcello Borges, who dominated the left when attacking and defending. He created tons of chances for the Wolverines and his speed proved near impossible for the Broncos to stop. Combined with Umar Farouk Osman on that left, and Michigan have two of the quickest, or perhaps the two quickest, left side players in the entire Big Ten.
Tonight's performance was sparked by the rest of the defense just as much as it was by Borges. Austin Swiech, Jackson Ragen, and Daniel Mukuna all had stellar games. Ragen and Mukuna are dominant in the air, Ragen is wise beyond his years as a player, and Swiech has made right back his own. Ragen, in particular, had a stellar performance and his goal is a nice cherry on the top of what was a fantastic defensive day.
Additionally, Marc Ybarra continues to influence the game even without seeing tons of possession. Ybarra serves as this side's holding midfielder and is a rock solid link in between the midfield and defense. Michigan showed a 4-1-4-1 at times in defense and Ybarra's ability to close down quickly in the center and not allow many chances through the middle is a huge reason that they are able to use just a single number six.
Other notes that Michigan fans will enjoy include Jack Hallahan's health and Ivo Cerda's and Robbie Mertz's continued brilliance. Hallahan played the first half and 15 minutes of the second, and looked solid even if not constantly involved. He's going to continue to play with his usual consistency. Finally, Cerda and Mertz was absolutely crucial in pressing forward and not allowing Western Michigan any room to breathe. The two work perfectly together and Cerda's game-winner is a well-deserved reward for the senior, as was Mertz's assist on the first goal.
The Wolverines return to action on Monday, September 10, at 7:30 PM as they take on Marquette. Following that, they play both their first away match and Big Ten match on September 14th at Rutgers.