When the Michigan State Spartans and Washington Huskies met in Fort Wayne, Indiana on August 21 for a preseason match, both teams were figuring out their starting lineups as the Huskies won the game 1-0.
With both lineups set this time, these two teams would meet again in a match that would hold a little more significance, as the fate of both teams’ seasons would ride on this Sweet 16 match at DeMartin Stadium.
“It was all about their character today,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “When you are down 2-0 there are a lot of ways you can go, and it was about the character of these 28 guys. It wasn’t about the coaching staff, my assistants, myself, it was about the character of the players on the field and they never gave up.”
Just like their game against Oakland, the Spartans set the tempo right from the opening kickoff and wasted no time looking for that early goal, as junior midfielder, Jay Chapman, and redshirt senior forward, Tim Kreutz, would have early goal scoring opportunities within the first ten minutes.
The Huskies would not sit back and let Michigan State control the tempo as Washington would find a few opportunities to score, but their best chance would be in the 32nd minute when sophomore midfielder, Cristian Roldan, would get on a ball from a long throw-in from senior forward, Darwin Jones.
Roldan would get his head on it and his header would force junior goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, to push the ball over the crossbar for a corner kick.
“I thought we came out and played a poor first half for whatever reason,” Washington head coach, Jamie Clark, said. “I don’t know why. It may be travel, tired legs from last week, maybe nerves.”
Neither team would get another great look at goal in the last 13 minutes of the first half as the Spartans and Huskies would go into halftime tied at 0-0.
Both teams would have good looks at goal in the second half, but the the first goal would not come until the 66th minute when junior midfielder, James Moberg, would hit a shot inside the Michigan State box that would deflect off a Spartan defender and into the back of the net to put Washington up 1-0.
The Spartans would create a scoring opportunity for themselves in the 72nd minute as Chapman would find junior midfielder, Jason Stacy, at the top of the box and then Stacy would play a through ball into the box to freshman midfielder, Michael Marcantognini, who would just miss the ball as Husky redshirt senior goalkeeper, Spencer Richey, would come off his line to smother the ball.
Off a long throw from Jones a minute later in the Spartans’ final third, Washington would find the back of the net as a Michigan State defender would try to clear the ball on the left side of the six-yard-box. Freshman midfielder, Steven Wright, would control the ball and turn and shoot the ball past Bennett on the near post to go up 2-0.
“They had been pretty dangerous on long throws all game,” Bennett said. “It got knocked down and I can’t remember who did, but one of our guys tried to clear it out and it hit some body part to keep it in and the ball bouncing. [Wright] had his back turned towards me and he turned and just ripped it near post and I just never really saw it.”
Off the restart after the goal, the Spartans continued to push forward and to hit balls into the Husky box, and four minutes after Wright’s goal, a Spartan player struck a long ball into the Washington box and freshman defender, Garrett Jackson, tried to clear the ball out with his head, but it ended up going back into the Husky goal for an own goal.
Michigan State continued to push players forward to look for the tying goal, and in the 88th minute, junior defender, Zach Carroll, would find senior forward, Adam Montague, in the box on a long ball.
Kreutz would make a run towards the six-yard-box and Montague would head the ball towards a running Kreutz who would chest the ball into the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
“It’s funny, I get hit in the face and I score off my chest — didn’t really use my feet that much today,” Kreutz said. “Honestly Adam just hit it too hard and I couldn’t get my head down and kind of just tried to redirect it with any body part I could and luckily got it down and [Richey] reacted off Adam’s header and not off my chest redirection.”
The game would head into overtime where both teams would have looks at goal, but none that would challenge Richey or Bennett, and after 120 minutes of play, the Spartans and Huskies would head into penalty kicks.
The Spartans would go first and Carroll would step up and convert his penalty kick. Roldan would follow and tie it at 1-1.
Stacy would step up and bury his shot into the top right corner of the goal and then redshirt sophomore defender, Justin Schmidt, would hit his shot over the goal to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead.
Montague and Moberg would convert their penalty kicks to make it 3-2, and then with a chance to put the pressure on Washington, senior midfielder, Ben Myers, stepped up and hit a low shot that would go wide of the right post.
Jones would step up for Washington with a chance to continue the penalty kicks and he would curl his shot off the top left corner of the crossbar, giving the Spartans a 4-3 victory in penalty kicks.
“When you get to penalty kicks, this is the toughest thing I think in soccer is losing or advancing on penalty kicks,” Rensing said. “Again, it comes down to some character and our guys stepped up.”
The Spartans will play Providence College on Saturday, December 6 at 12 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium in the Elite Eight. The winner of this match advances to the College Cup in Cary, North Carolina.
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports
Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports