East Lansing- The Michigan State men’s soccer team fell in an extremely hard-fought 1-0 game against the Penn State Nittany Lions Friday night. The loss moves the Spartans to 4-5-1 on the regular season with a 0-2-1 record in conference play.
The Spartans controlled the pace early and often, starting off with a series of strong offensive possessions that forced the Nittany Lion defense to rally multiple times. Penn State remained patient offensively early on. They waited for chances on the counterattack and pushed offensively when opportunity presented itself, rather than forcing any action.
33 minutes into the first half, the Spartans earned a free kick. Forward Louis Sala gave a perfect strike, setting the ball in position to go to the top left corner. Nittany Lions goalie Kris Shakes leaped and made a picture-perfect save to save what would have been a beautiful goal.
Following the save, the Nittany Lions pushed the counterattack following a won possession. They got off a solid attempt that was corralled by Spartan goalie Hunter Morse. On the Spartans’ ensuing counterattack in the 36th minute, they earned a yellow card following a rough tackle by Nittany Lion forward Peter Mangione. The rest of the first half remained quiet with a few back-and-forth possessions throughout. The Spartans had controlled the pace and led in shots 4-1.
To open up the second half, Penn State completely flipped their script. They began pressing and pushing their offense at a ridiculous pace compared to the first half. While their many chances didn’t bear any fruit, they had the Spartans reeling, and reeling hard. In the 56th minute, the Nittany Lions were on the push when midfielder Jack Zugay made a tackle that was rough, but was met with even force by a tackle from the Penn State attacker. However, Zugay was sent off and charged with a red card.
From then on, the Nittany Lions really controlled the game. The shots on goal were produced in bunches, and the Spartans were forced to play essentially the remainder of the game in their defensive third. The Nittany Lions kept finding chances and taking shots, while the Spartans rallied hard defensively to prevent Penn State from scoring. In the 87th minute, Penn State found another chance. Forward Danny Bloyou epitomized the phrase “right place, right time” when a saved rebound by Morse ended up at his feet, and he was able to cheekily tap it in to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead. While the Spartans attempted to manufacture opportunities, it was too little, too late, and the final whistle rang with the score remaining 1-0.
”Soccer tests you, and we’re getting tested as a team right now,” Spartan coach Damon Rensing said. “This is just life lessons.Things don’t always go the way you map it out to, but we’ve got to stick together and get ready. There’s no time to cry or feel sorry for ourselves because we have a huge game with Michigan coming up on Tuesday.”
The Spartans take the field next when they travel to Ann Arbor to face off against the 5-4-1 Wolverines. In a game where there is sure to be an extremely hostile environment, the Spartans could change the dynamic of their season with a huge win.