Every team sport seems to have that special player, a momentum shifter, who can come in and change the game. Michigan State’s men’s soccer team is unique, because it has more than one impact substitute player, spurring the team’s success this season.
Unlike professional soccer, college soccer has unlimited substitutions, meaning that any player can be subbed in and out through the game.
The No. 12-ranked Spartans (13-4-1 overall, 4-3-1 Big Ten) have taken full advantage of being able to utilize the skills of every player, helping it overcome a slew of injuries at the end of the regular season. MSU is in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, playing No. 1 Maryland Friday in Westfield, Indiana. The Spartans will also look for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament and a return to the bracket for the third time in four years.
Players such as freshman Michael Beckett, senior Andrew Herr, and others have been critically important in the past few weeks.
“Our sub guys are huge,” starting junior defender Jimmy Fiscus said. “They’re coming out and doing well. We’re going to need to get deep into our roster with a few guys hurt. The season’s getting longer and we’re just all [in] recovery. I have faith in every single one of my players that come in. I think they can all make a difference.”
In the Spartans’ second to last regular season home game, midfielder Andrew Herr - scored the first goal of the game. Herr, who has seen his playing time increase, would end up with the game-winning goal in the 2-0 MSU win.. It was a milestone for Herr, as it was his goal first of the season - and the first of his MSU career.
“I just remember Dewey [Lewis] threw it in, Jimmy [Fiscus] headed it, and it bounced perfectly right to me…and I thought, ‘You know, I’m not taking a touch, I’m just hitting it first time,’ and lucky for me, it actually went in this time,” Herr said. “Out of all of the team sports, this is one that truly most embodies the word teamwork. Eleven guys working toward a common goal to win a game is something that we pride ourselves on and for everyone to step up like that and fill a role for the team is huge.”
To close out the regular season, a daunting two-game road trip laid in front of MSU, traveling to No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 10 Indiana.
Continuing to work through injuries, head coach Damon Rensing found the right piece to plug in yet again. This time, it was forward Beckett - who has played in nine games, but has yet to start a game at MSU - scored the only goal of the game in Michigan State’s 1-0 win over the Irish.
“It was a little combination play with Giuseppe [Barone] and [Brad] Centala,” Rensing said. “Then Giuseppe found [Ryan] Sierakowski, who had a very good ball, and finally, a great header by Beckett - what a way to get your first college goal for Beckett. Michael is really good in the box. It gives us some freedom to move Ryan around a little bit. He has been a great addition for us.”
Beckett added another point to his career total with an assist to Sierakowski in the team’s 2-1 loss at Indiana in the regular season finale.
“It’s a long season: a lot of games in a short amount of time,” Herr said. “You’re going to need guys coming off the bench and putting in good minutes. The guys that come off and provide the minutes for us, they’re a huge, huge help and they definitely are a part of this team’s success.”