Sept. 12, 2008
DeKALB - The Northern Illinois men's soccer team remained undefeated with a 4-0 shutout of Xavier, Friday, in the second match of the NIU/adidas Invitational.
Senior goalkeeper Joe Zimka (Algonquin, Ill./Jacobs) recorded six saves, including stonewalling a penalty kick in the first half, and four different Huskies scored goals to move NIU to 4-0-1 on the year. The win is the fourth shutout of the year, and continues the Huskies' best start in a decade.
Sixth-year head coach Steve Simmons was impressed with his team's performance.
"I asked them for a complete game and I think they delivered today on a complete game," Simmons said. "At the end we wanted to continue to play and keep it tight to preserve a shut out, and we did."
Freshman midfielder Brad Horton (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) got the scoring started early with a penalty kick at the 4:37 mark. Horton, who added an assist later in the match, leads the team with three goals and seven points.
Forward Chris Johnson (Colorado Springs, Col./Yavapai C.C.) widened the lead after Musketeer goalkeeper Adam Sokolowski headed a ball directly to Johnson at the top of the box. The senior capitalized with a one-touch shot into the lower right corner that put the Huskies up 2-0 in the 23rd minute.
But Xavier continued to fight, earning a penalty kick in in the 27th. Midfielder Andy Dimbi took the shot, but was denied by Zimka, who dove right and punched the ball away from the goal.
"I think Joe is about as good I have seen him, better than the '06 campaign," Simmons said, comparing the keeper's outing to Zimka's NCAA record-setting sophomore season. "He is playing with a lot of confidence, with a very high soccer I.Q. and he is commanding the field like we expect a senior goalkeeper to do."
The Huskies rewarded Zimka's defensive effort when freshmen Finn Jor
(Olso, Norway/Academy for Elite Athletes) and Johnny Tyma
(Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein) connected for a goal. Tyma played a through ball to Jor, who placed the ball just out of the keeper's diving reach and into the net.
Up 3-0, Northern Illinois continued to press forward in the second. Horton played a long ball through the defense to Luis De La Cerda (Guadalajara, Mexico/Waubonsie Valley), who received the pass in the box and finished to give NIU it's fourth goal.
Simmons complimented the Huskies' effort to play a full match, even when up a significant margin, contrasting it with a match last week in which NIU battled back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime.
"Last week, we realized our potential in last the 50 minutes of the game," he said. "What we saw today is our players realizing there potential the whole 90 minutes."
The Huskies utilized nine players of the bench, including freshman Francis Otira (London, England/Finchley Catholic), who celebrated his 20th birthday by making his first appearance for NIU.
"You got some big time guys who are out, and Jay Aikenhead stepped in and was fantastic. Aaron Zendejas went in at left back and was fantastic," Simmons said. "You've got handful of guys who are stepping up and doing the job in place of players who are out."
The 4-0 win is the largest margin of victory for NIU since the Huskies defeated Western Michigan by the same score Oct. 5, 2007.
"That team attitude and everybody working for each other, you see it come into effect on days like this," Simmons said. "In this marathon of a season everyone is going to have to step up at one point. It's nice that we were able to do that and everybody was able to contribute"
Northern Illinois continues the campaign, Sunday at 2:30 p.m., when the Huskies face Eastern Illinois. The Panthers lost, 3-0, to No. 14 Northwestern in the first match of the tournament. The Wildcats will get their chance at Xavier, Sunday at noon.