Men’s soccer hosts ‘dynamic’ Akron

By Frank Gogola

Men’s soccer’s chances of making the MAC Tournament are fading quickly with only two games remaining and two of its top players out against Akron.

The Huskies (3-7-5, 0-2-1 MAC) host the Akron Zips (9-5-1, 2-1 MAC) 7 p.m. Saturday at the Soccer and Track & Field Complex.

NIU is tied for fifth place in the MAC with the Bowling Green Falcons, who it hosts 6 p.m. Nov. 8 to close out the regular season. The top four teams make the conference tournament.

“That’s everyone’s goal right now,” said redshirt junior goalkeeper Andrew Glaeser. “Everyone wants to get in there. That’s really the only thing on our minds: Focus on Akron this weekend, get a result and then go on to Bowling Green the following weekend. We know what we got to do and we’re going to do it.”

The Huskies face a tall order in the Zips, who have manufactured 26 goals in 15 games. Sophomore midfielder Adam Najem leads Akron with nine goals and has chipped in two assists, while three other Zips have added three or more assists.

“I expect that their offense will be pretty dynamic,” Glaeser said. “… I know they’re going to be able to score goals, but I also have 100 percent confidence in our defense and our back line in that we will be able to deal with whatever they throw at us and keep them out of the net.”

Akron junior goalkeeper Jake Fenlason has allowed 12 goals in 15 games for a goals against average of 0.78 per game. In the Zips’ last seven games he’s only given up four goals.

“We already know Akron’s a very good team and they’ll probably have a strong defense,” said senior forward Andrew Palumbo. “We just have to go out and play our game and have a fast transition and really put them under pressure.”

Already set to face tough competition in the Zips, the Huskies will be without senior midfielder/forward Isaac Kannah and sophomore defender Cody Witkowski. Kannah and Witkowski received red cards Saturday against Buffalo and are serving their one-game ban Saturday.

Kannah is the Huskies’ leader in goals (four) and assists (four), and Witkowski has been one of the Huskies’ better defenders.

“We’re going to have to play very well,” said head coach Eric Luzzi. “The guys are going to have to work hard. I’m excited, and I think our guys are excited for the challenge. Of course, I’m not going to sit here and deny the fact [that] two of our better players can’t play. …

“Again, it just adds to the challenge. I have faith that the guys that we’re going to put in are going to do their job and put in an honest day’s work and put in a good performance, and if that happens we’re still going to have the same chance to hopefully get a result whether those guys play or not.”