Farai Mutatu nets goal in MSU debut

EAST LANSING, Mich. ­‑ Boosted by freshman forward Farai Mutatu’s first career goal in his Spartan debut, No. 7 Michigan State men’s soccer beat the Bulls of South Florida, 1-0, Friday night at DeMartin Stadium in MSU’s 2018 season opener.

PDF Box Score vs. USF

Mutatu’s header came off a corner kick by senior midfielder Hunter Barone in the 87th minute, soaring above the defender and heading it into the back corner of the net, past sprawling USF keeper Harrison Devinish-Meares.

“Well, it was a good win. I thought was a really team performance, and I thought we showed our depth tonight,’ MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. “I thought South Florida had some good attacks in part of the first half. We really gained control of the game, created four or five good chances, hit the crossbar, didn’t finish and they absorbed really well. But I thought with our possession and we kind of started to wear them down, and I think our depth showed. We rewarded ourselves with a great restart and corner kick goal. I think restarts reward you when you’re in their creating chances in goal territory. We got a great serve from Hunter and an awesome finish from the freshman Farai.”

Mutatu had a dazzling Spartan debut, coming on as a substitute in the 29th minute.

“I am thankful for everything today, my family and a lot of people believing in me and trusting me this whole time, and I’m just happy to get it started the right way and to give them a goal,” Mutatu said. “It just means everything and all the people that came and supported me, shout out to them! I’m just happy to get the win for the team. The guys played phenomenal, and so I think we deserved that goal as a team.”

MSU won its home opener for the sixth-straight season, getting a clean sheet by senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague to start the season and pick up right where he left off last season. It was Hague’s 19th career shutout, which ties him for fifth on the Spartans’ career shutout list, matching him with Jason Tillman (2003-06) and Gary Wilkinson (1974-76).

Friday night’s match was a clash of highly clouted keepers, as Hague is the reigning Big Ten Conference Goalkeeper of the Year and was one of MSU’s three Preseason Big Ten Players to Watch as well as on the MAC Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List. Devinish-Meares was the American Athletic Conference Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year.

Hague made one save, as the Spartan defense corralled the Bulls in limiting them to just four shots, two in each half.

While the MSU defense was denying USF’s offense, the Spartan offense applied continuous pressure on the Bulls’ backline and midfield.

Michigan State’s best scoring chance in the first half came in the 22nd minute when junior midfielder Giuseppe Barone’s shot went off the crossbar after some nifty passing by the Spartans through the Bull defense.

The half ended with a 3-2 MSU shots advantage, as both teams had three corner kicks.

In the 50th minute, Giuseppe Barone again had a quality opportunity, but his chip from 12 yards out went just wide of the goal.

The resolute MSU pressure broke through in the 87th minute on Hunter Barone’s corner finding Mutatu’s head and into the net, sparking the Spartans’ celebration.

Michigan State has a quick turnaround, continuing its four-match homestand to open the season on Sunday, August 26, hosting Tulsa at DeMartin at 1 p.m. Tulsa beat Michigan, 2-1, Friday night. Sunday’s match vs. Tulsa.

Due to an event at the Breslin Center, parking will be limited. Fans are encouraged to park at the IM West (62 West).  Parking is also available at the Kellogg Center and the Ramp 7, near the 1855 Place off of Harrison Road.