Men’s soccer NCAA hopes in MAC titles

By Jacob Onak

In its first eight games the men’s soccer team has won just three — but it doesn’t matter in the long run.

For bigger college teams in bigger college conferences, non-conference results do mean something. The Big Ten will have more than two teams in the NCAA tournament because their conference is tougher and they play tougher opponents in non-conference


For NIU and the MAC, those numbers are much different. Unless NIU wins 90 percent of its matches against top teams in non-conference action, the only real way to get to the NCAA tournament will be to win either the regular season conference or the MAC tournament.

Those two paths to the NCAA tournament are now men’s soccer’s only hope. In MAC soccer, Akron is the powerhouse and the only one with real power to create a second or third bid to the


So it is conference play that will determine the post season for the Huskies, who are now 3-5-0. That’s a record that actually shows some signs of strength.

In 2012, the Huskies were 1-6-1 in their first eight games, scoring seven goals and giving up 13.

This year, NIU closed the gap, scoring 10 goals and letting in 11.

One thing is true: NIU has found its scoring boots. It is even more impressive that NIU has improved with so many new players. The Huskies have 11 new faces in 2013, most of them freshmen.

In conference play, the new faces will need to adapt and adapt quick.

Now that Florida Atlantic, a team which finished last in the conference in 2012, has left the MAC, there is even less room for error.

The Huskies will also have to find out how to win on the road as they play four of their six MAC games on the road, including games at Akron and West Virginia. The two teams were picked one and two in the preseason polls with NIU picked to finish the conference in third.

It’s time for upperclassmen to step up and fix the youthful mistakes NIU has been making.

Senior forward James Stevenson will need to keep goals coming after his brace over the weekend. Stevenson is not only trying to improve his numbers from last year but is also tasked with the job of being an even bigger offensive catalyst with Gael Rivera still recovering from a torn ACL.

One who will need to be more lethal in front of the net is junior Isaac Kannah. A player who can create for himself and for others, Kannah has had a couple of close calls this season and should have more than three goals this season.

Defensively, the Huskies’ problem is staying sharp for the full 90. Whether it’s a set piece breakdown or a missed clearance, NIU’s defense must keep focused.

The first two road conference games will be key for NIU. If the Huskies can get four out of the six points against West Virginia on Oct. 5 and Bowling Green on Oct. 12 they will be in a good spot for the rest of the conference season.