Late Goal Gives MSU First Win

The Southern Methodist University Mustangs may have only won three games last season, but they did not look like a three win team Friday night as they played the Spartans tough for 90 minutes.

Right from the kickoff, SMU put pressure on No. 10 Michigan State and created multiple scoring opportunities, with their best scoring chance coming in the 10th minute when the Mustangs sent a dangerous ball into the Spartans’ 18-yard box, which hit a head and forced MSU goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, to make a diving save in the air to prevent the goal.

“I would say they probably had one dangerous shot that I had to make a save on and then there might have been one or two dangerous moments, but other than that I can’t really think of anything that really scared me too much,” Bennett said.

For a good part of the first half, Michigan State put themselves in good opportunities to score as SMU committed questionable fouls around their 18-yard box.

The Spartans could not convert on a free kick opportunity in the 18th minute from about seven yards out from the top-middle of the 18-yard box. Junior forward Jason Stacy struck it over the Mustang wall, but the ball went well wide of the goal.

Right from the start of the second half, the Spartans came out and pressed the Mustangs to try and take an early lead in the second half.

“We switched up our formation a little bit and we realized we were going to press them a little higher.” redshirt senior defender, Ryan Keener said. “They are a good team and they play a little bit direct and I think we just wanted to try and keep the ball in their end more.”

It took the Spartans eight minutes after the start of the second half to find themselves threatening to score off a set piece.

From about 40 yards out, Stacy struck a well-hit ball into the far side of the six-yard box which almost found the head of Keener, but SMU goalkeeper, Michael Nelson, came out and grabbed the cross before it could get to Keener’s head.

Several more set piece opportunities were earned by the Spartans, but it took until the ninth corner kick in the 78th minute for Michigan State to find the back of the goal.

Again, Stacy lined up to take the corner and delivered a hard-hit ball to the back post where Keener ran onto the ball, which found his head and then the back of the net.

“They are a good team on set pieces as well. All corners they created some good opportunities as well,” Keener said. “I mean we had a lot of corners, so if I felt like we didn’t score it was going to be on us. It wasn’t like a, ‘oh, a heroic corner’ goal, it’s like ‘you better score if you get nine corners’ (goal).”

SMU pressed even more in the last 12 minutes of the game, but the MSU defense held their own and kept the ball out of the back of the net.

“It was the first regular season game with that backline. As much as we don’t want to talk about it, they got pretty big shoes to fill with (Kevin) Cope and (Ryan) Thelen out of there. But I thought they did awesome,” Bennett said. “I think for their first (time) out there they followed the communication really really well. They gave 110 percent the full 90 minutes and I really couldn’t be more proud of Zach (Carroll) and Jimmy (Fiscus) and how they played, and obviously Keener and Andrew Herr did their thing like always.”

Michigan State has a recuperation day on Saturday and then on Sunday they play the Florida International University Panthers at DeMartin Stadium at 1 p.m.

“Obviously they are coming off a good win against a good Michigan team and both teams won, so we are going to try and get greedy and try to see if we can get two wins,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “It’s a brand new coach and I know he does a good job. They’ll be organized and tough.”

Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.

Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports