Oct. 22, 2008
Box Score in PDF Format
EVANSTON, Ill. - For the second time this season, the Northern Illinois men's soccer team played the second-ranked team in the nation even with the exception of one play.
Unlike last time, when NIU bested then-No. 2 SMU in overtime, the Huskies (7-3-4, 2-1-1 MAC) were on the wrong side of the game-winning play, as NIU fell 1-to No. 2 Northwestern, Wednesday night.
"Against Northwestern, the margin for error is maybe the smallest you're going to have against anyone in the country," NIU head coach Steve Simmons said.
The Wildcats (11-0-2) took the only shot by either team in the first half, and took advantage. Northwestern scored in the 25th minute to take a 1-0 lead after an NIU foul outside the box gave the Wildcats a free kick from 25 yards out. Piero Bellizzi took the kick, finding Brian Usinger who headed the ball into the upper-left corner, just beyond the reach of Huskie keeper Joe Zimka (Algonquin, Ill./Jacobs).
"They got a head to it, an awkward header that looped over into the upper corner," Simmons said. "The disappointment is in giving away a free kick in the first place."
In the second half, NIU's chances developed more frequently, as the Huskies played with a 15 mile-per-hour wind at their backs. Senior Chris Johnson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Air Academy) took Northern Illinois' first shot of the game, a left-footer from 20-yards out that was blocked before nearing the goal. A few minutes later, Johnson laid into another shot from inside the box that forced Wildcat keeper Misha Rosenthal to make his first of five saves.
"We capitalized on the momentum, and switched some things up in the second half," Simmons said. "But Northwestern is an awfully good team at sitting in and protecting the lead."
In the 10 minutes between the 70th and 80th minutes, NIU placed four shots on goal, but none were true enough to tie the match. Sophomore midfielder Engebreth Faerden (Olso, Norway/Academy for Elite Athletes) had a chance for the Huskies, as he ripped a shot from the top of the box in the 71st that was foiled by Rosenthal. Drew Jeskey (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) also took a chance on goal in the 73rd, and in the 76th, Brad Horton fired one on target, but neither found the net. Freshman Jason Geuhler (The Colony, Texas/The Colony) laced a shot on goal in two minutes later, but still the Huskies were unable to find the game-tying score.
"We've got to be clinical, and we're just not clinical enough," Simmons said of his team's inability to score against the nation's best defense. "They're not going to give you opportunities, you've got to take your half chance and make it a full chance."
But Northern Illinois pressured Northwestern until literally the last second, earning two corner kicks in the final 30 seconds of the match.
Despite the loss, Simmons felt his team performed at a high level.
"We played well. We defended well and moved forward," he said. "We just need to have something to show for it at the end of the game."
Northern Illinois returns home to host Bowling Green, Saturday at noon in game one of a Huskie double-header against the Falcons. The NIU football team takes on BGSU at 3 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.