Kyle Rutz scores the game-winner in the 79th minute to lead MSU.
EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ Freshman Kyle Rutz made his first career goal a memorable one as he scored the game-winning tally in the 79th minute to lead the Michigan State menâ€™s soccer team past Illinois-Chicago, 2-1, Tuesday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium.
â€œ(Itâ€™s nice) just to get some momentum,â€ said Spartan head coach Damon Rensing. â€œWeâ€™ve been playing well, but we havenâ€™t had a lot to show for it when you look at some of the last games. This is a huge win.â€
After a scoreless first half, the Flames (5-2-2) got on the board just over six minutes into the second half as Jesus Torres scored his third goal of the season at the 51:12 mark. UIC midfielder Iva Stanisavljevic created separation on a breakaway attempt and drilled a shot to Spartan goalie Jeremy Clark, who made the stop but couldnâ€™t hang onto the ball. Torres was there for the opportunistic rebound on the right side of the goal and easily scored as the Flames took a 1-0 advantage.
But it was all Clark would give up.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, the Spartans (2-5-2) quickly responded with a goal less than four minutes later. UIC back Zach Kaleta was flagged with a yellow card for making contact with Adam Montague in the box on a possible scoring opportunity, and Cyrus Saydee was selected to take the penalty kick for MSU. Saydee converted with a strike to the left corner of the net past Flames goalkeeper Piotr Kikolski to tie the game at 1.
â€œWe got some energy going, created a penalty kick, and I thought that jumped us,â€ Rensing said. â€œI thought we showed the initiative in the second half, worked at it and got some restarts, and that resulted into the second goal.â€
Although the Spartans were out-shot by the Flames, 11-6, they held an 8-6 advantage in corner kicks, and perfected one in the 79th minute to take the lead for good.
Joe Paljaj started the play with the corner and passed the ball toward the center of the field to Ryan Thelen, who promptly sent it right back to Paljaj on the left side of the box. Paljaj then sent a pass toward the net looking for a Spartan to make a play â€“ and Rutz was in the right place at the right time. The freshman from Commerce Township re-directed the pass and placed it in the upper-left corner for the game-winner.
â€œI got a lucky bounce and I just flicked it up â€“ it couldnâ€™t have gone any better,â€ said Rutz. â€œIt feels great. We definitely needed this. Weâ€™ve had bad luck for awhile, so hopefully this jumpstarts us.â€
â€œThe way they had us man-marked and loaded everybody in the box, we played it back to Ryan and they closed that down because we played that early in the game,â€ remarked Rensing on the game-winning play. â€œSo he played it back to Joe, and Joe played a good hard ball to the near post and Kyle flicked it inâ€¦and caught them. Itâ€™s good to see you work on some of those things in practice, and itâ€™s good to see them actually work in a game once in awhile.â€
Michigan State held off UIC the remaining 11:37 of the game to improve to 12-4-3 all-time against the Flames, including an 8-1 mark in East Lansing.
â€œAnytime itâ€™s a one-goal game at the end, itâ€™s going to be like that (physical),â€ said Rensing. â€œWe managed it pretty well. Iâ€™m happy for Jeremy. Heâ€™s played great all year, and maybe his record doesnâ€™t have a ton to show for it, but he got a win today.â€
The Spartans return to action Sunday at 12 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium to face Ohio State. The game will be televised on BTN.
â€œJohn Bluem does a great job at Ohio State â€“ theyâ€™re going to come in ready and they had a big win against Michigan,â€ Rensing said. â€œIt will be a big-time, Big Ten matchup with the Big Ten Network here on Sunday.â€