Preview: U-M men’s soccer team has potential for big year

The Michigan men’s soccer team is looking to get over the hump. And that hump is more a small hill than a giant mountain.

The Wolverines went 4-11-4 overall last year, including 1-6-1 in the Big Ten Conference. At first glance, it’s not a pretty picture. But if you pull off the frame and take a closer look at the picture it’s really not that bad considering…
Considering…the Wolverines were in most games and a kick here or a shot there or a save here and there and Michigan is looking at a very different outcome in 2016. Let’s just say the ball didn’t bounce their way last year.

This year Michigan looks to “bounce” back and turn those close losses and kick them over to the win column. The Wolverines will look to improve their fortune in overtime and one-goal matches after going 0-5-4 in overtime (including a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 1 Maryland in the Big Ten quarterfinals) and 1-8-5 in one-goal matches in 2016. That’s the small hill UM needs to climb.

They have plenty of talent take with them on the trail.

Leading the way is junior Francis Atuahene. A two-time All-Big Ten first team selection and the first player in U-M history to earn all-conference honors in their freshman and sophomore seasons, Atuahene had a team-best eight goals last year and has 18 goals for his career, eighth all-time in the U-M record books.

Atuahene can play either wing or central attacking roles.

Marcello Borges and Jack Hallahan also return for the Wolverines.

A junior, Borges has played in 29 matches as a left back and winger during his time as a Wolverine. He returns to U-M after taking the 2017 spring semester off due to U.S. National Team duty.

Hallahan, a sophomore, was a 2016 All-Big Ten Freshman Team honoree, who started 17 matches in an attacking role for U-M last season and notched four goals.

He will be paired up front with Atuahene to give the Wolverines a dangerous attacking duo.

Senior Billy Stevens, along with juniors Robbie Mertz and Ivo Cerda, were named team captains for the first time in their careers.

Stevens, a three-year starter on U-M’s back line, has started all 53 matches he’s appeared in. Mertz has earned respect around the conference for his high work rate and has appeared in 35 matches in his Wolverine career. Cerda, a leader on the field and in the classroom, will serve as the metronome of the U-M midfield.

While there is plenty of experience for coach Chaka Daley (sixth year) to work with, the Wolverines have plenty of youth to kick into gear this season. Fourteen of the 26 student-athletes on the roster have yet to take the pitch in a Wolverine uniform (10 freshmen, one transfer, three rising sophomores that didn’t see match action as freshmen).

The incoming recruiting class was ranked No. 9 in the country by CollegeSoccerNews.com and No. 8 by TopDrawerSoccer.com, marking the fourth consensus top-10 class in the Daley era. The group is headlined by 2017 Gatorade High School National Player of the Year Umar Farouk Osman and Campbell University transfer Daniel Mukuna, who arrives in Ann Arbor with junior eligibility.

Other highly touted additions include freshman Mohammed Zakyi, Ann Arbor native Marc Ybarra and Canadian U20 National Team member Joel Harrison.

If the Wolverines can put the pieces together and turn those close matches into wins, it’s going to be a very exciting season on the pitch for the Michigan men’s soccer team.

The Wolverines open the 2017 campaign with five-straight home matches starting with William & Mary at 7 p.m. on Aug. 25.

For group experiences such as high five tunnel, halftime mini games and more, call (734) 647-1268 or email [email protected]. For other tickets, visit www.mgoblue.com/sports/2017/6/16/tickets-som-index-html.aspx

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