Oct. 8, 2008
DeKALB - The Northern Illinois men's soccer team travels to New York to face Mid-American Conference foe Buffalo, Friday.
The Huskies are looking to rebound after suffering their first conference setback of the season to No. 4 Akron, last Saturday. The loss was just NIU's second of the season, and the team now sits at 6-2-2 on the season, with a 1-1-0 record in MAC play.
Head Coach Steve Simmons believes his team needs to play with fire to present a challenge.
"We need to play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder," he said. "There's a lot on the line as far as how it's going to shake out in the MAC standings."
The Bulls sit tied with the Zips atop the conference standings with a 2-0-0 record, holding wins over Florida Atlantic and Western Michigan. Overall, the Bulls have recorded a 10-2-2 mark, and are unbeaten in their last eight matches. Prior to its last match, a 2-2 tie of Niagara, Buffalo had held opponents scoreless through 680 minutes and seven contests.
In addition to the Bulls' momentum on the field, the team will have an extra emotional charge.
"They're very physical, they're confident right now, they're playing at home, and it's their senior day," he said. "I'm sure that we'll rise to the challenge of that."
The Huskies and Bulls and tabbed eighth and ninth, respectively, in this week's National Soccer Coaches Association Great Lakes Regional Rankings. Akron fills the second slot in the poll as the third MAC-member in the top-10 list.
The Bulls, who are a perfect 7-0-0 this season at home, hold multiple scoring threats, led by senior forward Dominic Oppong. Oppong has scored five goals, including two game-winners, while five other Bulls have more than one goal to their credit this season. Buffalo also possesses a strong defense, led by senior keeper Robert Shuttleworth, who has tallied seven shutouts this season.
"I think no matter what style the end up playing, we just need to have our key principles in order when we go out on the field, so that regardless of what they do, we've got things in check," Simmons said.
Northern Illinois goalkeeper Joe Zimka has played all 969 minutes of his senior season. The Algonquin, Ill. native (Jacobs H.S.) sits in second on Northern Illinois' career shutouts list with 19, chasing Markus Roy's 26, set from 1988-91. Offensively, the Huskies have been shutout in only one of their last six matches, in which time they have scored 11 goals. Freshman Brad Horton leads NIU with four goals, and is one of 11 Huskies to find the net this year.
The Huskies stay on the road after taking on Buffalo, but head out of conference to battle Milwaukee, Tuesday, Oct. 14.