MSU Men’s Soccer takes Nail-Biter over Dayton on late PK

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MSU midfielder Sean Kerrigan salutes the DeMartin faithful after sinking a late penalty kick on Sept. 7.

Emily Lance

MSU midfielder Sean Kerrigan salutes the DeMartin faithful after sinking a late penalty kick on Sept. 7.

The Michigan State men’s soccer team returned to East Lansing Thursday night to host the Dayton Flyers on a rainy night at DeMartin Stadium. The game was a scoreless affair until the 84th minute, when Spartan junior midfielder Sean Kerrigan was fouled in Dayton’s box for a penalty. Replay confirmed the penalty called on the field, and Kerrigan scored the ensuing penalty kick to give Michigan State a 1-0 lead that would eventually be the final score. 

After playing to a draw in 90-degree-heat against Villanova on Sept. 4, the Spartans again battled the elements on a slippery field. The rain subsided just before kickoff but returned midway through the second half. 

“These conditions are perfect,” said Kerrigan, new to the team this year after transferring from Mercyhurst University in his native Ireland, “It’s the Irish weather I’m used to. We were playing in 93 degrees last week; I thought I was about to have a heart attack. No, this weather is 100%, I love this weather so, if it’s this weather there’s more chance of me scoring a goal than when the sun’s out.”

The clutch goal was Kerrigan’s first in green and white. The Spartans’ seven goals this season have been scored by seven different players.

It was Ted Lasso night at DeMartin Stadium, with free T-shirts and stick-on mustaches provided for the Spartan fans. Several Spartan players and head coach Damon Rensing got in on the fun, trying on the mustaches for themselves after the win. 

Both teams played aggressively throughout, and showed that aggression early, with Flyers forward Jorge Canga earning a yellow card in the 6th minute for a sliding tackle just outside the box on Kerrigan. The Spartans picked up a yellow card of their own just minutes later, as senior midfielder Jack Zugay was booked for an attempted tackle on Canga. Canga was injured on the play and did not return to the game.

Dayton defender Geni Kanyane picked up the Flyers’ second yellow card for a tackle on Kerrigan, the second booking drawn by Kerrigan in the first 20 minutes.

Spartan freshman defender Will Eby was the fourth player booked in the first half after a dangerous tackle in the 33rd minute. Eby made up for the booking in the final minutes of the first half, blocking the shot of Dayton midfielder Adam Zenzen on an excellent edge-of-box chance before heading clear the ensuing corner kick. 

The game entered halftime 0-0, with neither team managing to put a shot on target. 

Dayton goalkeeper Dario Caetano earned a yellow card for arguing a foul called against Geni shortly after the beginning of the second half. In the 57th minute, Geni was given his second yellow card of the game on an erratic slide tackle from behind while chasing a ball up the right wing, forcing the visitors to play out the rest of the game down a man.

Michigan State made the most of their man advantage, spending much of the remainder of the second half building their attack in Dayton’s end of the field. 

Kerrigan was a thorn in the side of the Dayton defense all night long, creating chances and drawing foul after foul. With under seven minutes to play, Kerrigan drove the ball deep into the Dayton box and was taken down by Dayton defender Paul Yeboah, instantly drawing a penalty call from referee Mike Stutt. After the penalty was confirmed by replay, Kerrigan was the chosen man on the spot and slotted the kick in the bottom-center of the net to give Michigan State a 1-0 lead they would hold on to the rest of the way. 

Michigan State redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Zac Kelly made a pair of saves, including a diving deflection in the 53rd minute, on his way to a clean-sheet victory for the Spartans’ second shutout of the year at DeMartin Stadium. 

“Was it our best offensive performance tonight? No, I don’t think so.” said Rensing, “but it was one of our better defensive ones from start to finish and when you do that, you give yourself a chance to win.”

The two teams combined for 24 fouls and seven yellow cards in a physical defensive game. 

The win brings Michigan State’s record to 3-0-1 to begin the season. The Spartans will be on the road their next time out, traveling to face No. 20 Notre Dame in South Bend on Sept. 14.

The Spartans’ next game at DeMartin Stadium is Sept. 22 against Indiana. 

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