Mens soccer Ohio State stares down date with Michigan

OSU senior midfielder Ben Fitzpatrick looks to gather possession of the ball in the second half against Rutgers on Sept. 18, 2016. Credit: Gene Ross | Lantern reporterThe Ohio State men’s soccer team is back in action this Friday at 7 p.m., as they take to the road to face off against Big Ten rival Michigan.The season is in its final stages, and for the Buckeyes it has not quite gone according to plan. Despite the team’s yearlong struggles, OSU still has a chance to earn a spot in the top half of the conference standings before the start of the Big Ten tournament.“The out of conference games haven’t been going our way,” said redshirt freshman goalkeeper Parker Siegfried. “We still have a decent standing in the Big Ten. We have to win to try and get that home playoff game. The team is excited and ready to go.”As of late, OSU has been on the verge of taking down some high-level competition, but has been unable to close out games. After having the lead at halftime of their last two games, the Buckeyes came away with a draw against Indiana and dropped a 2-1 contest against Louisville.“It is good that we are putting ourselves in these positions where we are competitive with these good teams but we have to knock somebody off,” coach John Bluem said. “We had the lead in both those games and couldn’t hold onto it. It’s been tough. This team needs a win like that to really take us over the edge and get us going.”The Buckeyes have three games remaining on the schedule, two of which are against Big Ten opponents. With the goal of a high seed in the conference tournament, the team must start with a win over Michigan.At 2-8-4 overall (1-4-1 B1G), the Wolverines have struggled mightily on the year.Michigan has been outscored 20-11 by its opponents. Its only wins came on back-to-back 2-0 victories at home over Detroit and Penn State.The Wolverines leading scorer is midfielder Francis Atuahene. The sophomore from Ghana has found the back of the net four times this year while also posting an assist to give himself a team leading nine points.This will be the 32nd meeting between the two teams, with OSU holding a 20-10-1 advantage in the all-time series. The Buckeyes are 4-5-1 all-time in Ann Arbor.The last time these two teams matched up, OSU came away with a 3-1 victory in Columbus that secured the Big Ten regular season title. The Buckeyes have won nine of the last 12 meetings.Despite the Buckeyes having an upper hand in the all-time series, the rivalry between the two schools is still very present.“Being from Columbus, you are born knowing the rivalry between Ohio State and the “team up north,”” said senior midfielder Ben Fitzpatrick. “It’s a tradition. We will go up there fired up for a win.”With the Big Ten tournament on the horizon, the Scarlet and Gray know this is a game they cannot afford to lose.  “Even though it is two teams that aren’t having great seasons, it’s a game that looms big on both of our schedules,” Bluem said. “It is a must win situation.”

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