Golden goal shuts down Spartans in B1G tournament

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By Kevin Raju

EAST LANSING, Mich. — What was supposed to be a victorious beginning for the Spartans’ men’s soccer team in the Big Ten Tournament was actually a devastating defeat.

Eric Matzelevich of the Maryland Terrapins scored the golden goal in the first period of overtime. That golden goal in the 98th minute not only sealed the win for the Terrapins, but shut down the Spartans from advancing any further in the tournament. As fans left DeMartin Stadium after the heartbreaking ending, there were only thoughts of the good that came as well as the “what-ifs” that surrounded the potential goal opportunities.

The Spartans were the No. 4 seed in this year’s tournament with a conference record of 4-2-2. One of those wins was at Maryland (2-0) in the regular season. The Spartans last played at Indiana, where they lost to the Hoosiers 1-0 in overtime. Today’s overtime loss was very similar to the defeat from the Hoosiers.

It was very competitive as both sides were able to create many goal-scoring opportunities. For the Spartans, there were 15 total shot attempts (3 in the first half, 9 in the second half and 3 in OT). With that, the Spartans attempted to score through corner kicks on 10 attempts (2 in the first half, 5 in the second half and 3 in OT). However, Dayne St. Clair had 5 saves, and the shots were either wide, saved by St. Clair or were handled by the Terrapins’ defense.

“I made a couple good saves and my defense was a big part of why we were 0-0 going into overtime, so that was just a whole team effort there in the back,” said Hague.

On defense, Spartan goalkeeper Jimmy Hague had eight saves as both him and the Spartan defense kept 18 shots out of goal along with preventing seven corner kicks from becoming scoring opportunities. There were some shots that came close to Hague’s face as he saved shots that were on target to him.

Terrapin midfielders William James Herve and Amar Sedjic each had four shots against Hague. Herve had a couple runs that allowed him to get in range of Hague while Sedjic had more attempts off assists from other players that showed opportunities for the Terrapins to take the lead throughout the game. Another Terrapin midfielder, Eli Crognale, had a corner kick that went to Herve for a shot that was blocked by Hague.

“I think honestly that was one of the best games our team has played all season. We got Connor Corrigan back who helped a lot,” said Hague. “So I thought just going forward defensively, I thought we were good going all over the field. That’s a big positive going into the tournament. Hopefully we get in.”

Throughout the season, the Spartans were known to be better in the second half than first half. It is very evident as the Spartans had more shots and corner kicks in the second half than the first half, which became more opportunities for goals.

Around the 60th minute, Giuseppe Barone received a pass off of a cross and took a shot on goal. Dayne St. Clair blocked the shot just before it scored. Barone’s shot looked like a potential game changer for the Spartans.

Another opportunity rose in the 62nd minute with Corrigan who took another shot on goal, but missed. Corrigan was present throughout the second half as he was all over the field even though his position is on defense.

“It was tough, I mean I thought the first half Maryland came out, was pretty strong. We were a little sloppy on some stuff and give some credit to Maryland,” said MSU coach Damon Rensing. “But I thought the second half, we controlled large spells of the game.”

Throughout the first half, Maryland had more shots and corner kicks. Furthermore, Maryland put more pressure on the Spartan defense to keep the ball away from goal. Hague’s four saves in the first half ensured that no goal came to pass. Corrigan and Michael Wetungu (defender) were essential in stopping passes and blocking attempts on goal.

Paul Bin and Donovan Pines of the Terrapins were on the front lines trying to score goals to gain a lead over the Spartans. Pines had a header during the beginning of the game and Bin was trying to create passes for other forwards to use to score goals in front of the defense and Hague.

“Our defense was great today. Look, you gotta score goals to win the game. We didn’t do it. We had the chances to do it,” said Rensing. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way. Sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve got a football coach around here that says it’s a game of inches. We missed on inches today.”

Fans, players and coaches all wonder about the outcome if the ball only moved a few more inches before St. Clair saw it or made an attempt to stop it. Attempts made by the Spartans’ Barone, Corrigan, Patrick Nielsen and Farai Mutatu were very close to the goal. Had any one of those goals gone in, the Spartans would’ve had the momentum to turn this game into a victory at home.

Some of these attempts were very close at goal. The only difference there was by the hands of St. Clair. Other attempts made by DeJuan Jones and Corrigan along with more attempts (either during the game or on free kicks) were wide. However, more of these goal attempts (close or not) were made during the second half. The Spartans’ pressure on the offense forced Maryland to put force on preventing more goals.

The Spartans are done with their season after this loss against the Terrapins. It has not been determined whether or not the Spartans will play again in the NCAA tournament. More than likely, the Spartans may not be in the NCAA tournament this year. However, if they do make the tournament, chances are that they will be a low ranking seed.

Regardless, the Spartans return key players like Nielsen, Mutatu, Giuseppe Barone, Wetungu and Will Perkins for next season.