Second half turnaround enough for men’s soccer

By Jacob Onak

DeKalb | After a Friday loss, the men’s soccer team came from behind to grab a 2-1 victory against the Green Bay Phoenix on Sunday.

On Friday, NIU took on the Butler Bulldogs in a one-goal contest.

The first real chance of the game was the deciding factor for the Bulldogs. Anthony Smith Jr. pounced on a missed clearance from a Huskie defender and put his team up 1-0 in the 34th minute.

Just about five minutes after, NIU junior forward Isaac Kannah could have equalized for NIU on a breakaway. Sophomore Charlie Oliver played a ball into Kannah but the Butler keeper made a big save and kept his team in the match.

The game ended 1-0. Head coach Eric Luzzi thought NIU could have been more ruthless in front of goal.

“There’s two moments,” Luzzi said. “We have a missed clearance and they punish it; we have a breakaway we don’t finish. That’s the game … We don’t have the missed clearance, they don’t score, it’s 0-0 at half time. The guys are working hard, they are doing what we asked them to do, they just need to be a little more mature in one or more key moments that are obviously deciding games right now.”

Sunday, NIU took the field against Green Bay and had yet another slow start in the first half.

In the 22nd minute, Green Bay forward Lawrence Talery took a ball from inside the Huskies’ box and slipped it under redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Glaeser. Talery followed up on his shot and poked it home to give the Pheonix a 1-0 lead.

At halftime, Luzzi gave his guys some words of encouragement.

“For once I didn’t yell at them,” Luzzi said. “I thought their heads were down. They were moping a little bit and I didn’t want to crush them more. So we just told them, ‘Stick to what we’ve trained, simplify the game, don’t complicate the game, keep plugging away,’ and they had a fantastic response, mentally and physically.”

Luzzi was right as the Huskies came into the second half with a point to prove, putting immediate pressure on the Green Bay back line. NIU had two good chances to tie up the game but nothing had fallen for the home side.

Then, just 10 minutes into the half, NIU found an equalizer through captain Sean Totsch. The senior defender collected the ball from Oliver after a broken up set piece and fired it under the Green Bay goalie for his first goal of the season.

The Huskies weren’t done as junior midfielder Jayson LeSeth gave NIU its game-winning goal just four minutes after.

After freshman Cody Witkowski was fouled around 35 yards outside of the box, LeSeth played in a ball that went right through the Green Bay keeper’s hands and into the back of the net.

From then on it was the Phoenix who put the pressure on, but the Huskies’ defense made no mistakes in the second half, earning the 2-1 victory.

Totsch thought the biggest difference between the first and second half was NIU’s willingness to get into the attack.

“I think [the difference was] everyone’s commitment to get forward and to get in behind them and really get numbers going forward,” Totsch said. “To me, in the first half we had some decent connection and some decent passes, but we weren’t really getting guys forward enough to complete and get some goals.”