Men’s soccer to take on Milwaukee

By Jacob Onak

The battle for the LeWang Cup returns to DeKalb as men’s soccer takes on the UW-Milwaukee Panthers at 7 p.m. today.

The LeWang Cup, which is named after former head NIU head coach John LeWang, who was killed in a car accident in 1981, has been held in Milwaukee since the Panthers defeated the Huskies 1-0 in 2012.

Milwaukee comes into DeKalb with an impressive 11-2-2 record, and head coach Eric Luzzi has given credit to head coach Kris Kelderman for the Panthers’ success.

“They’re a good team and having a really good season,” Luzzi said. “The coaching staff’s in their second year, so they’ve kind of turned things from the situation they took over and then they’re good. They find ways to win, they don’t give a ton away, they’re just kind of a generally solid team. Probably the biggest thing with them, I’m assuming they are playing with a good level of confidence because they have won a lot of games this year.”

The Panthers have defeated teams NIU has played and lost to this season. Milwaukee beat Bowling Green and UW-Green Bay, two teams NIU lost to, and have also beaten MAC foe Western Michigan, a team NIU will face Tuesday.

Something NIU will have to be ready for is the fast start capability the Panthers bring. In 13 of 15 games this season, Milwaukee has scored first. The Panthers are also a team capable of scoring goals, tallying 29 this year, while their opponents have only gotten on the board 12 times.

A big reason for Milwaukee’s offensive production has been junior midfielder Laurie Bell. Bell leads the team with 10 goals and three assists and has started every game this year for the Panthers.

Luzzi and the Huskies hope to make a dent in Milwaukee’s away record (6-1-0) in their second match under the lights in the last eight days.

“I think, especially when you add the new lights, I just think we have a very cool environment at our place,” Luzzi said. “We enjoy the surface, it’s familiar to us … it’s a slightly different kind of routine that’s just a little bit easier to manage, and obviously we get to play in our first-class facility, so I think that it is very positive thing that three of the last four games are at home.”

The Huskies’ attack will be led by junior Isaac Kannah, who has started a good run of form in the last two games. Kannah has scored three goals in the past two matches, and has six this season.

Luzzi said Kannah’s good run of play has come because the junior had less of a “pass-first” attitude.

“It’s a very, very fine line because in general you don’t want your players to be selfish,” Luzzi said. “Everybody on the team needs to understand how important it is that we move the ball collectively as a team, defend collectively as a team, you know, all that sort of stuff….

“I think the thing that [Isaac’s] been doing pretty well in the recent past is he’s just being a little bit more aggressive in the attack. He’s looking to be more of a constant threat with his runs because the reality is, physically and athletically, there are very few defenders that can keep up with him.”

The Huskies’ defense will need to be on its game against Milwaukee so they don’t add to their goals against tally, which is already at 21 for the season. The game starts at 7 p.m. at the NIU Soccer and Track and Field complex.