Set piece defense burns men’s soccer vs. Spartans

By Jacob Onak

Set pieces can kill in soccer, and the men’s soccer team learned that the hard way against Michigan State on Saturday.

Despite having most of the possession and the creating chances off the run of play, the Huskies (3-6-0) fell 2-0 to the Spartans (5-1-1), who scored two second half set-piece goals.

“It’s frustrating again,” said head coach Eric Luzzi. “… Once again I thought we outplayed a very good team for the majority of the game. I don’t know that they created one legitimate chance in the run of play, maybe one with like two minutes left as we were pushing forward. They really didn’t create one good chance.”

The first half ended scoreless, but the Huskies had a number of good chances to give themselves the lead.

The best chance of the half came from junior forward/midfielder Isaac Kannah. Kannah collected the ball and successfully chipped the Michigan State goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, but the ball bounced off the crossbar and the Huskies couldn’t put away the rebound.

The first half ended with Michigan State outshooting NIU seven to nine.

As the second half started, the Spartans used their size and strength against the Huskies on their set piece opportunities.

“I think we had the better of play for most of the game,” said senior Sean Totsch. “They’re a real big physical team and they really just forced long balls down on us and tested us in the air and went for the set pieces, corners and long throws. There were two moments where we lost our men in the box and they were able to finish, but we definitely had solid scoring chances that we should have put away.”

Michigan State opened the scoring in the 70th minute with a goal from Jay Chapman, who followed the ball after a corner kick and buried it to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

Just five minutes later, the Spartans doubled their lead. Off of another corner kick, Spartan defender Ryan Keener put a header past NIU goalkeeper Andrew Glaeser to give Michigan State the 2-0 victory.

The match ended with Glaeser making 11 saves, while Bennett made seven saves of his own. Michigan State outshot NIU 22 to 16.

Even with the 2-0 loss the Huskies made moves to their lineup that seemed to pay off in the run of play.

Totsch, who has been a center back in the first half of the season, moved to his more natural center midfield spot, while Shawn Vroom stepped into the center of defense with Dusty Page. NIU then had Cody Witkowski and Charlie Oliver in the outside back spots.

“We had a hold of the midfield today for the most part in part because Sean [Totsch] was in there and Vroom did a good job at the center back spot,” Luzzi said. “He limited their chances. Like I said, they really didn’t have a chance. And on set pieces and corner kicks we are marked the same way whether it’s Sean Totsch in the midfield or in the back…. So I thought that, that was fine.”