The Big Bear is Back

EAST LANSING, Mich. – It wouldn’t be a rivalry game between Michigan and Michigan State without drama, and there was plenty of drama on the pitch Saturday.

Between the Wolverines and the Spartans, there was a total of 29 fouls, in which five of the fouls resulted in cards.

“If it wasn’t chippy, there would be a problem. I don’t think any of us have played a Michigan-Michigan State game that wasn’t chippy,” senior defenseman Wesley Curtis said. “We said before the game, don’t get into it and we said that there was going to be cards and that we couldn’t be the guys getting the cards.”

The Spartans celebrate their 2-0 victory with the official supporters group of Michigan State Soccer, the Red Cedar Rowdies.

That discussion couldn’t have been more dead on because the Spartans proved to stay composed in the chippy game as Michigan seemed to lose their composure by receiving four yellow cards and one red card in the game.

The first half belonged to the Wolverines. They came out and set the tempo, as they outshot the Spartans 10-0.

Michigan sophomore forward James Murphy and redshirt sophomore Colin McAtee each had a scoring opportunity on top of the Spartans six-yard-box, but pushed their shots wide of the goal.

In the 40th minute, Murphy had another scoring opportunity from inside the 18-yard-box, but sophomore goalkeeper Zach Bennett came up with a diving save to his left.

“We kind of had a moto today, no doubt. No doubt that we were going to win the game,” redshirt junior forward Tim Kreutz said.

“We got out shot in the first half, but we still knew that we were getting in good spots, but we didn’t just have the final third pass. We knew if we came out with high

intensity that they weren’t going to be able to handle us.”

Sophomore midfielder Jay Chapman smiles as the Big Bear Trophy is back in East Lansing.

In the second half, the tempo of the game flipped, as the Spartans came out with their speed and put pressure on the Wolverine defense.

The havoc that Kreutz and Rutz started began in the 49th minute, when Kreutz was fouled by the Wolverines redshirt junior goalkeeper Adam Grinwis, as Kreutz got in behind the defense and forced Grinwis to come off his line and make a play.“I think we were just too much for them, me and Kyle, and I mean that’s all we wanted to do, is cause havoc the whole second half and it obviously worked.”“Me and (Kyle) Rutz were faster than their centerbacks and they had to foul us to keep us out of their box and at the end of day that is what they had to do,” Kreutz said.

In the 60th minute, junior midfielder Kyle Rutz found the back of the net with a header off a volleyed cross from sophomore midfielder Sean Connerty, to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

“It was a great ball and I was just kind of in the right spot at the right time and he had enough power on that and all I had to do was just re-direct it in,” Rutz said.

Just a little over two minutes later in the 62nd minute, a hand ball inside the 18-yard-box was called on the Wolverines senior defenseman Ezekiel Harris, which gave the Spartans a penalty kick.

Fatai Alashe stepped up to take the penalty kick for the Spartans and buried it in the lower-right corner of the goal to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead.

Alashe, 27, celebrates after burying a 62nd minute penalty kick.

With 28 minutes left and a 2-0 lead, the Spartans maintained composure and stayed within themselves.

“We didn’t want to get caught up into anything that might give the referee a reason to make it 10 versus 10 rather instead of 11 versus 10,” head coach Damon Rensing said.

After the full 90 minutes, the Spartans rushed out onto the field with the Big Bear Trophy, which they reclaimed with the win on Saturday.

“It always goes in the locker room, that way when it’s not there they know, and I probably shouldn’t even try to guess where it is going to be tonight, but come tomorrow morning it will be there in the locker room,” Rensing said.

The Spartans finished the Big Ten regular season in third place and that has matched them up with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, which will begin play on November 13th.

2013 Big Ten Men’s Soccer Tournament Bracket

Brooks Laimbeer is a multimedia journalist for Corner Kick.

Photos: David Defever