Michigan State men’s soccer eliminated by Michigan in Big Ten tournament


MSU midfielder Jack Beck/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Adam Bakr, Men's Soccer Beat Reporter

ANN ARBOR — The Michigan State men’s soccer team had its season come to an end, losing 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament to rival Michigan.

It was a meeting between two sides who have seen each other often as of late, being the third fixture between the in-state rivals this year. Going back to last season, the teams have met five times, including the quarterfinals of the 2019 Big Ten tournament. The one constant has been Michigan coming out on top, winning all five encounters. 

“We’re disappointed,” Michigan State coach Damon Rensing said. “We didn’t win today. So as good as we played, and as proud as I am of the effort, we’re still out, and the season’s over.” 

Michigan State started the game on the front foot. Spartan junior forward Farai Mutatu was making his first start since his return from injury and made his presence felt. He had two chances in the early stages of the game, but Owen Finerty was able to keep both of them out of the Michigan goal. 

The Spartans may feel hard done to have not been given a penalty midway through the first half. Michigan State junior midfielder Luke Morrell was brought down in the box as he was trying to get on the end of Jack Beck’s freekick, but the ref only gave a corner on the play. It’s not often penalties are given in set piece situations like that, but a two-hand push with no attempt to play the ball would have justified one in that situation.

While Michigan State started off the better side, the best chance of the half went to Michigan. A nice team move on the edge of the box found Inaki Rodriguez one on one with Spartan goalkeeper Hunter Morse, but Morse was quick off his line to deny Rodriguez the opening goal. It capped off a sequence of Michigan dominance to end the half, and both sides likely felt they could have opened the scoring before the break. 

The first chance of the second half would fall to Michigan State. Mutatu’s cross from the right wing was met by sophomore Conner George, but the forward could not make clean contact on the header, and it went wide. 

MSU forward Connor George/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Michigan would make the Spartans pay for the miss instantly. Right up the other end, Dante Morrissette was caught on the ball near the box, and Austin Swiech took possession. He found Kevin Buca in the box, who took a touch around Morrell before firing into the far corner. There were shouts for a foul on Morrissette, but on further view, it looked like he slipped after a clean challenge. 

It was Buca’s third goal of the season, with all three being game-winning goals against Michigan State. Following the goal, Michigan dominated the ball in the coming 20 minutes, but was unable to put the game away with a second goal. 

An injury to Morrell caused an extended pause in play with 17 minutes left. Coming out of that break, Michigan State had a collection of chances to try and find an equalizer. First, Mutatu almost made something out of nothing on a long ball, getting around Jackson Ragen as he was shielding the ball for Finnerty to come grab it. His effort would go over the bar, but as Finnerty crashed into him, there was another shout for an MSU penalty that was not given. 

Mutatu turned provider next, sending in another good cross this time from the left wing. Olu Ogunwale was the target this time, but was late on his header and could not send it goalwards. 

The next chance would come on a junior midfielder Jack Beck freekick. He almost caught Finnerty cheating off the near post, but a great recovery save from the Michigan keeper flicked the effort over. 

Christian Pulselli nearly put the game out of reach for Michigan with five minutes left, but another great one-on-one save from Morse kept the score at 1-0. It would not matter in the end though, and Michigan was able to see out the final minutes of the game comfortably after the chance. 

“When you get to these games, it’s going to come down to one or two plays,” Rensing said. “Our possession was good, we created chances and our defensive shape was good. It came down to one play they made and a couple we came short on.” 

The season ended in a near identical way to last season. Once again at the hand of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in a match between the third and sixth seeded teams in the conference. The Spartans ended this campaign with a 4-7 record after the tournament loss.