MSU thrashes Schoolcraft 9-0 in season-opening exhibition match


MSU forward Farai Mutatu controls possession during a home contest/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Jad Safadi, General Assignment Reporter

EAST LANSING— After a disappointing 2020-21 campaign that saw Michigan State finish 4-7 and bow out in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament to archrival No. 20 Michigan on April 10, MSU head coach Damon Rensing, along with several key roster holdovers, waited nearly four months to take the pitch against another team.

Boy, did they take advantage of said opportunity on Wednesday night.

In the 2021 season-opening exhibition match against Schoolcraft College, a Michigan-based junior college, the Spartan offense exploded for nine goals en route to a resounding 9-0 home win over the Ocelots. Senior forward Farai Mutatu spearheaded the MSU offensive attack with two goals and two assists. Redshirt freshman forward Kadin Shaban notched two goals as well as sophomore midfielder Vedad Kovak.

For some players, the presence of a sizable crowd was an entirely new experience. Even for the older upperclassmen, the sight of the “Red Cedar Rowdies” for the first time in over a year and a half was a welcome sight.

“It seemed like a different world, I kinda forgot what it was like,” forward Michael Miller said.  “Having a crowd out there, and other students, it was great, it was great to see it.”

MSU midfielder Michael Miller celebrates after scoring a goal/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

“I think always playing in front of a good crowd and people that support you is great,” Rensing said.  “You always like to shake the hands of the fans at the end of the game, it’s been two years since we’ve done it, even just that felt good.”

The Spartans began the game in an aggressive lineup, with their two deepest center backs playing near the midfield line. From the get-go, the MSU fullbacks and outside midfielders played higher up on the pitch than expected.  In addition, MSU applied suffocating early pressure on Schoolcraft that led to several high-quality scoring chances.

Freshman forward Zack Babiak opened up the offensive onslaught for the Spartans in the 10th minute with help from Mutatu, who played in eight games last season and led the team with 16 shots on goal.

MSU was solid and quite comfortable maintaining possession on their side of the field; they kept up their smothering pressure against the Ocelot offense for the rest of the half, and it eventually paid dividends.  With 18 minutes remaining in the first half, Mutatu extended the Spartan lead to two thanks to a beautiful entry pass from senior midfielder Louis Sala.  A few minutes after Mutatu’s goal, Sala netted a goal of his own which quickly gave the Spartans a 3-0 lead.

Despite Schoolcraft making several substitutions throughout the first half, MSU chose to hold off on making any lineup changes until after their third goal. Soon after making a handful of substitutions, Mutatu scored his second goal of the night, and the team’s fourth overall, with 14 minutes remaining in the first half. Midfielder Michael Miller picked up his second assist of the night on this goal as well.

MSU forward Farai Mutatu battles with Rutgers defender Thomas DeVizio in the 2020-21 season opener/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Kovac got into the scoring column right before the intermission, and as a result, the Spartans went into the locker room with a lopsided 5-0 lead. In the entire first half,  the Ocelots failed to net one shot on goal.

“We obviously scored a lot of goals, that’s one thing,” Rensing said.  “I think how we scored them, a lot of assists, a lot of selfless play, was very good. That to me, I thought it was a lot of team goals, not individual goals.”

The Spartans didn’t miss a beat in the opening frame of the second half, extending the same heavy attacking formation that they deployed in the first half,  even with the 5-0 cushion. The first goal of the half, and sixth on the night, came at the 50-minute as Kovac netted another goal thanks to an assist from Junior forward Gianni Ferri.

Subsequent goals by forward Greyson Mercer and Shaban pushed the Spartan lead to nine, the end result. Overall, in what was a festive affair, MSU showed how much of an advantage there is to having fans back in the stands.

“I think always playing in front of a good crowd and people that support you is great,” Rensing said.  “You always like to shake the hands of the fans at the end of the game, it’s been two years since we’ve done it, even just that felt good.”

The Spartans will look to continue building on tonight’s encouraging performance when they travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, to square off against Butler in another exhibition match on Aug. 15 at 3 p.m. MSU’s regular season opener is set for Aug. 26 against Cleveland State at home.