Men’s soccer looks for win at Akron

By Jacob Onak

Coming off its first win since Sept. 22, men’s soccer is set to take on MAC powerhouse Akron at 6 p.m. Saturday in Akron.

This could be NIU’s (4-9-0, 0-2-0 MAC) biggest match this season as it is the only team that hasn’t won in conference yet, sitting in last place of seven teams.

Under new head coach Jared Embick, the Zips (10-3-1, 3-1-0 MAC) sit at the top of the MAC table. They are coming off of a 0-0 draw to Michigan State, a team that beat NIU 2-0 on Sept. 28.

NIU head coach Eric Luzzi has seen a difference in the Zips’ game under its new coaching staff.

“They are much more willing to play direct,” Luzzi said. “In the past there wasn’t even a thought in their head, ‘We are just going to keep connecting our small little passes and we are eventually going to string enough together and open them up.’ Now we’ve seen seven or eight or their games… If things aren’t there for them they will not be afraid to play over the top just like every other college team.”

Akron senior forward Reinaldo Brenes will once again be at the forefront of the Zips’ attack. Brenes leads the team in goals with four and has added an assist on the


Akron’s Adam Najem has also had a good season for the Zips, tallying three goals and two assists on the year. The freshman was named the MAC’s Co-Player of the Week for his performance against Buffalo Friday.

The Huskies are coming off a 3-0 win against Eastern Illinois, which should boost their confidence ahead a big matchup in Akron.

Junior forward Isaac Kannah scored two goals in the victory on Tuesday and said he is looking forward to the contest.

“They are [a] really good team,” Kannah said. “I feel like they are the best team in college soccer so far, just how they play and how they are always moving off the ball. I think this will be big for us ’cause we haven’t beaten them yet and this is a whole different season.

“Yeah, we started off bad, but maybe [Eastern] was a turning point for us. And playing them at their home is going to be a good atmosphere. We are going to be up for it and they are definitely going to be up for it.”

Though the conference has been tight this season, an 0-3 start is something the Huskies do not want. Junior defender Dusty Page said that though Akron is a strong team, NIU cannot play scared against the Zips.

“Akron’s always a big game for us,” Page said. “They are our rival, but we don’t approach them as if they are bigger than what they are. They are a good team and we respect them, but we don’t give them too much respect because it will hurt our performance.”