UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior defender John Freitagwas stellar on both ends of the field, leading the No. 5 Michigan State men's soccer team to a 1-0 win over Penn State in the Spartans' Big Ten road opener on Wednesday night.
With the victory, MSU tied its best start since the 1974 squad went 8-0-2. Not only are the Spartans now 8-0-2 overall, but they also hold a 2-0-0 mark in Big Ten action. Penn State is now 2-5-1 overall and 1-1-1 in B1G games. Last season, Michigan State started the season 7-0-1 before losing its ninth game.
The Spartans have now won three-straight meetings against the Nittany Lions, including a 1-0 in the rain in East Lansing last season.
"It was a huge road win for us at Penn State. They were coming off a win and a tie at Michigan. A lot was on the line tonight," MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. "I thought that for the first 75 minutes we were really good, created chances and their goalie played really well. We got that great play from Giuseppe and a wonderful finish from Freitag."
How it happened...
The Spartans came out swinging with several chances early on. Senior forward DeJuan Jones had the first chance for MSU with a dangerous shot that had to be stopped by PSU's Josh Levine. It was the first of two shots by Jones in the opening half.
The Spartans had several first-half opportunities out-shooting the Nittany Lions, 7-0. Penn State's goalkeeper Josh Levine made five saves in the first 45 minutes alone. Despite the chances the Spartans, were scoreless at half for the fifth time this season. MSU is now 4-0-1 when tied at the break.
Freitag finally broke through in the 74th minute. The senior defender netted his second goal of the season off the pass from junior midfielder Giuseppe Barone, who now has a team-leading seven assists this season. Giuseppe Barone took the ball from the left side and found Freitag from 14 yards out.
After the Spartans scored, the Penn State offense came to life, trying to find the equalizer. All three of senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague's saves came in the final seven minutes of action. Hague and the MSU defense were solid, earning their fifth clean sheet of the season. The senior now has 23 career shutouts, tying him for second with Avery Steinlage (2008-10) and John Spink (1984, 86-88) for second all-time in MSU history.
"At the end, they are a going to put numbers forward. I thought our guys scrambled and put their bodies on the line and did what it takes to win in the Big Ten. I am really excited to head home with the win tonight," Rensing said.
For the game, the Spartan out-shot Nittany Lions, 16-7, and had the slight edge in corner kicks, 7-6.
Michigan State now returns home to take on Wisconsin on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. in a game televised by the Big Ten Network. Sunday is also Alumni Day where MSU will honor the 50th anniversary of the 1968 National Championship team.
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