Aug 17, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. -- Despite dominating possession and creating many more chances, the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team played to a scoreless draw with IUPUI on Saturday afternoon in the exhibition opener at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex. The Huskies hit the bar twice, earned a penalty kick and forced nine saves from the Jaguar goalkeepers but were unable to find the back of the net.
“We saw far more positives than negatives,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “To their credit, I thought the first 15-20 minutes they had the better of play. After we got through that, we got on the ball a little bit and I thought we were quite good in the last 60-70 minutes of the game. We created loads of chances, created a penalty kick, credit to their keeper, he made some very, very good save. If he isn’t in there the last 30 minutes we legitimately could have score three or four goals.
“Disappointed not to get a result because I thought that we probably deserved one, but outside of that detail, the rest of it was pretty good.”
After IUPUI saw most of the ball in the opening 10 minutes, the first chance for NIU in the opening 45 fell to junior Jayson LeSeth (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) who tried to beat IUPUI goalkeeper Eduardo Cortes to the near post, but his effort was held by well by Cortes.
NIU began to take control after the chance by LeSeth as senior James Stevenson (Falkirk, Scotland/St. Mungo’s) had an excellent opportunity to open the scoring in the 17th minute. After good work from freshman Cody Witkowski (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) played Stevenson in on goal, the Huskie senior’s effort was denied by an excellent toe save from Cortes.
Hustle down the wing from freshman Richard Hall (Billericay, England/The Billericay School) setup junior Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) with a great chance in the 36th minute. Hall’s cross from near the corner flag found Kannah whose rocket from the top of the box rang off the crossbar as the first half ended scoreless.
IUPUI held a 7-5 edge in shots in the opening half, but the Huskies had three shots on target to two for the Jaguars. Both teams had a pair of corners in the opening 45 minutes.
The Huskies continued to create chances on the other side of halftime. Freshman Chris Bernard (Langley, England/Chalfonts) was pulled down in the box in the 63rd minute, earning a penalty kick for NIU. Bernard stepped up to take the penalty and saw his attempt saved by IUPUI goalkeeper Christian Lomeli.
The chances kept coming for the Huskies and, following an interception in the middle third, LeSeth had another opportunity in the 68th minute, but his effort went harmlessly high of goal.
NIU continued to push for an opening goal in the waning minutes. Stevenson had a chance off a quick counterattack in the 75th minute but Lomeli did well to get low and stop the shot.
Junior Paul Hogan (Downers Grove, Ill./North) had a chance that forced a save from Lomeli in the 81st minute and junior Shawn Vroom (Kohler, Wis./Kohler) hit the outside of the post on a header in the 87th. On the follow-up to the Vroom header, Stevenson had an effort that forced another save from the Jaguar goalkeeper.
NIU outshot IUPUI 8-3 in the second 45 minutes, including six shots on target to zero for the Jaguars. The Huskies and Jaguars did not play overtime and the exhibition contest ended goalless after 90 minutes.
Despite the final scoreline, Luzzi was pleased with the performance of his newcomers seeing their first collegiate action.
“We have 11 new guys and not one of them looked out of their element at all, which is rare,” said Luzzi. “The law of averages says with 11 new guys two or three of them won’t be ready but I thought everybody that played looked ready.”
Northern Illinois will be back in action next Saturday, Aug. 24, when it travels to UIC for its final exhibition contest. Game time against the Flames is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Huskies open the regular season on Friday, Aug. 30, against Cincinnati in Columbus, Ohio, in the Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic.