After a hard fought game against Southern Methodist University Friday, the Spartans found themselves in another physical match with Florida International University Sunday afternoon.
From the first minute of the game, the Panthers came out in full force and pressured the Michigan State defense.
“We knew that Florida International has a lot of athletes,” MSU midfielder Jason Stacy said. “They are really good technically. Obviously they are a bunch of guys from all around the world who play for big clubs at home and so we were anticipating a really physical game, and it was just a matter of whether or not we could execute our game plan of getting down the wings.”
After the first few minutes of pressure, the Spartans settled down and executed their game plan, and in the ninth minute, senior midfielder Fatai Alashe got into the FIU box and forced goalkeeper Robin Spiegel to come off his line and challenge Alashe.
In the process of his challenge, Spiegel fouled Alashe, giving MSU a penalty kick.
Alashe stepped up to take the penalty kick and buried it into the bottom-left corner of the net to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
That early goal set the tone for what was to come as Michigan State kept up constant pressure and forced the Panther defense to keep on their toes.
As a result of the offensive pressure, 15 minutes later the Spartans added to their one goal lead off a hard-whipped cross in by Stacy, which found the head of junior defender Zach Carroll.
“(FIU) hit it back out to Jason (Stacy), and Jason hit another back post ball and my man lost me and I was wide open for the goal,” Carroll said.
In the beginning of the second half, the Spartans picked up where they left off and kept the FIU defense on their heels.
It took the Spartans a little longer to find the back of the net, but in the 66th minute, freshman Ken Krolicki had the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and flicked the ball to forward Adam Montague, who was open in the middle of the box.
Once Krolicki flicked Montague the ball, he chested it down and struck it first-time with his right foot into the back of the net.
“It was nice. Honestly, I closed my eyes and just kind of swung, so it was nice. There was about a five minute span there where we were knocking it and getting close and inching closer and closer,” Montague said. “Finally we were able to kind of build something and get into the 18 (yard box) and Ken Krolicki just kind of flipped it up to me and I kind of took a one touch with my chest and I was kind of free and took a shot.”
Michigan State will face the University of Illinois-Chicago on Sept. 5 in Chicago against a Flames team that went 16-4-0 last season.
“We know UIC really well. We played there last year and it was a tough game for us. It took us a while to crack into their wall and get a goal, and they are going to be similar to FIU,” Montague said. “They are going to have some guys that really want to play and that’s going to have to force us to play some solid defense and really be tracking guys through the middle. I think first and foremost we are going to focus on what we do best. We are going to stick to being solid on set pieces, we are going to try and play, but most importantly keep the stout defense.”
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports