The Michigan State Spartans men’s soccer team notched a huge shutout victory over archrival Michigan Tuesday night in East Lansing, The 2-0 victory is the first win in the series for MSU since a 1-0 home victory in extra time on Sept. 17, 2017.
Since that win, two ties book ended an otherwise five-straight wins by the Wolverines. Despite the recent struggles, however, Michigan State still leads the overall series with Michigan, moving to 34-12-7 with the win, including a 17-3-4 mark in East Lansing.
The battle for the Big Bear Trophy Tuesday night at a rainy DeMartin Stadium was in front of a packed house as a season-high attendance of 3,047 turned out for the game. It was also a brutally physical game for fans in the stands and watching on the Big Ten Network, as they watched 29 fouls whistled and seven yellow cards issued.
With the win, Michigan State extended its unbeaten streak to its last two matches and four of its last five, improving to 3-4-2 overall and 1-1-1 in the Big Ten this season. Michigan, meanwhile, snapped a two-match unbeaten streak, moving to 3-5-2 overall and 1-2-0 in league play.
Spartan senior goalkeeper Owen Finnerty, a grad transfer from Michigan, notched his first clean sheet in the Green and White with seven saves out of seven UM shots on goal. Finnerty also remains unbeaten in the series from his time in Ann Arbor.
“Honestly, until the whistle blew, I was dialed in,” Finnerty said. “It really didn’t sink in until after the whistle. It feels great. We’ve been working for this all year. To get my first clean sheet of the year, that was amazing as well, especially in the game that it was. The guys played great, and we worked hard for 90 minutes. We were up 2-0 with a minute left, and guys were still putting their bodies on the line. You couldn’t have asked for more from those guys. The clean sheet was just the cherry on top.”
As for the opposite end of the field, Michigan State struck gold early in this one. In just the seventh minute, senior defender Nick Stone aired a pass into the goal box that junior forward Grayson Mercer headed into the net past Michigan goalkeeper Ethan Wood. It marked the second-straight game with a goal for Mercer who leads the team this season with three overall and a team-leading eighth point.
A Mercer-tastic goal!!!— MSU Men's Soccer (@MSU_MSoccer) September 27, 2022
"What a dream start for Michigan State..." - @DeanCLinke
Greyson Mercer's header off the great pass from Nick Stone in the 7th minute gives the Spartans the early 1-0 lead over Michigan.#GoGreen | #BigBearTrophy pic.twitter.com/SvKVTc9Fv9
The Wolverines fought hard through the remainder of the first half, notching a 9-3 shot advantage. The stout Spartan defense held fast, however, as UM managed just two shots on goal that Finnerty saved, keeping the MSU lead at 1-0 heading into halftime.
In the second half, Michigan State managed to keep it more even with Michigan in shots as the teams locked at eight each, but the Wolverines had a 5-1 shots on goal advantage. Finnerty came up huge with five saves in a mostly defensive battle. That is, until late in the game for the Michigan State offense.
In the 82nd minute, freshman forward Jonathan Stout struck home in his first career goal as a Spartan. Stout managed to spin free to get a shot off, but hit the left post causing it to ricochet. Undeterred by the miss, he chased down his own rebound and fired off an arching shot around his defender and past the goalkeeper into the net to all but assure the game was out of reach for Michigan in a 2-0 lead.
If at first you don't succeed (or hit the post...) try, try again and net a goal!!— MSU Men's Soccer (@MSU_MSoccer) September 28, 2022
Stout follows up his own comeback for the first goal of his Spartan career!!
The @RedCedarRowdies are lovin' it with some #GreenSmoke!!#GoGreen | #BigBearTrophy pic.twitter.com/hOBGuIvHu8
It was a great team effort all around for Michigan State despite the many shot advantages to Michigan, and even a 6-1 corners advantage.
“It feels great,” MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. “I’m really just happy for the players, that looked like the Spartan team I’ve coached for years, a really good defensive performance from front to back. Everything was very solid, just a great Spartan team victory.”
"That was awesome... that was really awesome!" - @PatrickDoody19 with @deanlinke with @DeanCLinke on @BigTenNetwork...— MSU Men's Soccer (@MSU_MSoccer) September 28, 2022
It's #BigBearTrophy celebration time!!#GoGreen | #DeMartinDefended pic.twitter.com/DybpDHnQGO
Michigan State continues a homestand in East Lansing against Wisconsin on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. on Alumni Day. The game will be available to stream on B1G+.