MSU men’s soccer 2022 season review


Michigan State men’s soccer huddles before kickoff against Northwestern Oct. 30, 2022/ Photo credit: Jack Moreland

Luca Melloni, Sports Editorial Assistant

EAST LANSING – An 89th-minute goal by No. 18 Ohio State’s Devyn Etling sent Michigan State men’s soccer out of the Big Ten tournament and abruptly ended the Spartans’ season on Friday. 

“We had our chances, and obviously, Ohio State had some chances,” said head coach Damon Rensing. “It was a great college soccer game, and it ultimately came down to one play.” 

Senior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty played one of his best games for MSU, recording six saves throughout the night, but Etling’s header got the best of him with 30 seconds left in the match.

Owen [Finnerty] was awesome,” Rensing said. “Probably statistically, he wasn’t as high up there as some of the others, but for my money, he’s the best goalkeeper in the Big Ten. He’s been like that all year, and we are fortunate to have him.”

The loss against the Buckeyes marks the end of the season for MSU. With an RPI ranking of 66, the Spartans have virtually no case of making the 2022 NCAA tournament.

The Spartans ended Rensing’s 14th season at the helm with a 6-9-2 record overall and a 3-4-1 record in the conference. They faced some of the nation’s best teams early in the season, like No. 1 Washington and No. 24 Pittsburgh. 

The Spartans can take positives from this season, despite the losing record.  

First, Rensing’s freshman class showed talent and ability to compete with some of the strongest players in the conference. Freshman forward Jonathan Stout received the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year award before Friday’s game. 

Stout is the first MSU freshman to win the award since Giuseppe Barone in 2016. The former All-American and MAC Hermann trophy watch list ace Barone was drafted to Major League Soccer side C.F. Montreal in 2021. 

Stout led the Spartans with four goals alongside junior Greyson Mercer. His second-half goal against Michigan on Sept. 27 capped an electric night for the Spartans. 

Freshman Jake Spadafora made the Big Ten All-Freshman team alongside Stout. Spadafora’s pace and ability to get in behind defenders made him one of Rensing’s biggest attacking threats. 

While Spadafora only recorded one goal and an assist, his overall attacking play makes him a player to watch next season. 

Freshman left back Tyler Crawford played 1,152 minutes- the most out of MSU’s freshman class. Crawford brought pace and agility to MSU, starting most games. Look for him to continue being a major contributor in 2023. 

The second positive note that MSU can take out of this season is sophomore defender Josh Adam. Despite the team having conceded 28 goals, Adam and junior Elijah Howe were irreplaceable at center back–combining for 2,859 minutes on the pitch. 

Adam did not play the full 90 minutes in two out of 17 games this fall. The sophomore’s confidence grew exponentially from his first season and he was awarded the 2022 Big Ten Sportsmanship award. 

Expect Adam to be a go-to man for Rensing’s side in 2023 as a junior. 

Over to the negatives from this season. 

Michigan State was unable to defend set-pieces. The Spartans conceded many goals from dead-ball situations.

From poor man-marking to missed headers, set-piece defending was the true enemy of MSU. 

In the end, the difficulty of the Big Ten schedule got to the Spartans as they lost the last three games of the season. 

Before the Oct. 21 game against No. 7 Maryland, the Spartans were tied for second place in the standings. After the losses to No. 7 Maryland, No. 18 Ohio State and Northwestern, MSU dropped to sixth place. 

While all three of those losses were within a one-goal margin, a top-four finish for Michigan State could have increased the chance of a national tournament seeding. 

The Spartans missed a consistent goalscorer like Farai Mutatu, who scored seven goals in 2021 before joining MLS side L.A. Galaxy, but they had five players score multiple goals compared to last season’s three. Mercer showed signs of improvement, scoring significant goals against Michigan and Indiana.

Rensing and his coaching staff will be pleased with the performances of their younger players but will miss the leadership of their captains. 

Graduate midfielder Jack Beck and senior Will Perkins have been a part of MSU since 2018. 

Beck and Perkins were semifinalists as freshmen at the 2018 College Cup. Beck went on to provide the only assist in the 4-1 semifinal loss to Akron on Dec. 7, 2018.

Graduate midfielder Louis Sala led the Spartans with seven assists (fifth in Big Ten) in 2022. Sala was sidelined for most of the preseason with an injury.

The coaching staff secured a remarkable 2022 freshmen class that can fill the voids that the graduating seniors leave behind. They hope to bring in more players that fit the teams’ dynamic style of play. 

Michigan State hopes to continue recruiting and developing talent as it announces its 2023 recruiting class in the spring.