Poor road play could be women’s soccer’s doom

By Steve Shonder

If women’s soccer is going to make it past the first round of the MAC Tournament it will have to get comfortable on the road fast.

After last season’s winless road campaign, the Huskies have started out this season 0-4 on the road. Although four games isn’t much to judge, they seem to have to the same problem as last season: a suddenly porous defense.

NIU’s offensive attack hasn’t been very strong in its last two seasons, averaging 1.15 goals per game last season and one goal per game this season; however, at home the defense has been there to negate that weakness.

In 2013, the Huskies went 6-1-1 at home. Their only home loss came in the final regular season against the Toledo Rockets Oct. 31 with a playoff spot already secured. It was also the only home game in which NIU gave up more than one goal. At the end of the campaign, the Huskies only allowed .875 goals per game at home.

This year, NIU is showing the same signs of trouble on the road it displayed last year. After the first four road games, the goals allowed average is 3.25, considerably higher than the 2.4 goals allowed on average from the 2013 road matches.

This year, the Huskies play the same amount of conference games at home and on the road as in 2013, so it’s likely if they follow last year’s pattern the team will make another MAC Tournament appearance. But, it’s not going to help NIU break through the second round and beyond.

Barring an incredibly strong run in conference play, NIU is going to end up playing the entire MAC Tournament on the road. That’s something that should have fans worried.

Admittedly, it’s too early to go into full-blown panic mode, but it’s a worrying trend for a team that hasn’t yet played to its potential.

“It’s something we’re talking about,” said head coach John Ross, according to a Tuesday Northern Star article. “One reason why we went on a long road trip early is so we can get the right play in place and fine tune it for the future.”

The Huskies have the pieces in place for a solid offensive attack with junior Nicole Gobbo and seniors Maggie Renfro and Ashley Neubeck getting good chances in the early going. They’ve also gotten strong play in goal from freshman Amy Annala.

But, until the Huskies finally break through with their first road win since Oct. 25, 2012, it’ll be a concern for the team, and they know it.