Excitement for the season was created for coach Damon Rensing and MSU men’s soccer as they realized this was about to happen.
Their season kicks off against Rutgers at 1 p.m. Friday at Schoolcraft College.
“I think the guys are really excited, probably almost 15 or 16 months since their last competitive game,” Rensing told the media Thursday. “We are really grateful to have this opportunity to compete. … Our guys worked really hard. It’s been really good, and I think they’re excited to see where we’re at and where we can improve. ”
They won’t be able to open their year at DeMartin Stadium and not even at another Division I school’s field, but it’s something.
After an injury-ridden 2019 season, where MSU finished 3-12-3 and scored just 13 goals, MSU was selected to finish fifth in this season’s Big Ten preseason poll, behind the Indiana, Maryland, Penn State and Michigan.
Despite a poor record last year, MSU has finished in the top five of the Big Ten standings in seven of the past nine seasons. MSU also competed in the Men’s Soccer College Cup during the 2018 season before losing to Akron in the College Cup semi-final.
Friday marks the start of the fourth consecutive season as MSU opens its schedule against Rutgers. MSU won the first three games of the previous season and are looking to add another in this column on Friday.
MSU will be transitioning for Friday’s game from DeMartin Outdoor Stadium to Schoolcraft College and its indoor field given the winter weather conditions.
The team is on a shorter-than-usual schedule, with just 10 games scheduled against other Big Ten schools, five on the road, five at home.
They follow typical COVID protocols and are tested six days a week, Rensing said.
“It’s not foolproof like you’ve seen in other sports, but I think it keeps the guys a little bit up to date,” he said. “There are definitely some adjustments … and there is certainly some anxieties among the players because if they get it, they are out of 17 days, which is four games out of 10. … The positives are there. outweigh the cons. … Their other option is to be at home, take an online course and maybe not be able to compete, but I think … it’s good and healthy for them. “
Rensing said it was sometimes difficult for his staff as he tried to prevent the unprecedented. They can’t be in front of the team 24/7, so they’re hoping the messages they’ve received over the past year have penetrated.
For the Spartans, senior midfielder Michael Miller, junior midfielder Jack Beck and junior forward Farai Mutatu have all been named the Big Ten Players to Watch.
“A lot of unknowns for us seeing Rutgers, but I know they’re generally playing a pretty good brand, good style, and it’s going to be a very tough game based on strangers,” Rensing said.
Last season Miller was first on the team with seven points in 2019. Mutatu was second with two goals and two assists for a total of six points. The duo were two of seven Spartans to play in every game of the 2019 campaign, while Beck was an anchor and played 17 games.
Looking at the opponent, who comes out of a 7-8-3 round-trip record in the 2019 season, the Scarlet Knights will need to find consistency if they are to improve on last season’s record.
Head coach Jim McElderry, who is only in his second year at the helm of the Scarlet Knights, has named Pablo vila and Vincent Borden as captains of the Spring 2021 team.
In addition, the conference announced vila, Hugo Le Guennec and Jackson Temple as players to watch.
vila is a junior from Terrassa, Spain, and returns as the team’s top scorer with six goals and two assists, earning a nod to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Borden is a senior from Ithaca, New York, leading a defensive unit that recorded four shutouts last season.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing against teams we’ve lost to before because it gives us a little more motivation,” said Rensing. He has no expectations as to how the afternoon will unfold.
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