Men’s soccer seeks stronger attack

By Jacob Onak

It’s a new year, and there are many new faces for the men’s soccer team this season.

The Huskies have added 11 new players — or almost 48 percent of the team — to the roster.

Seniors Jordan Godsey, Rocco Taglia, Pat Sloan, Mike Mascitti and Hooman Shams were all expected to leave the Huskies last season, but Parker Thornton, Matt Pritchard, Gabe Christianson, Kyle McDonald and Karim Darbaki will also not be back in the Huskie fold.

After a 2012 season going 7-10-3, 4-2-1 MAC, NIU looks to make a return to the NCAA tournament.

Junior midfielder Jayson LeSeth, who was a mainstay in the Huskies midfield last season, said NIU wants to make sure it is in a good position at the end of the season.

“As a team we definitely want to put ourselves in a spot where if it comes to the fact that we don’t win the MAC tournament that we still have a good enough record to bring to the NCAA tournament,” LeSeth said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”

One of the biggest issues with the Huskies last season was the lack of goal production, but head coach Eric Luzzi likes what he is seeing out of his new group.

“I think we are closer…to where our attack needs to be,” Luzzi said. “It never really happened last year, you know what I mean? We scored 14 goals the hold year. We had good pieces last year but guys were just doing their own thing. So I think we have still very good pieces, guys on the same page more, and I think our attack is much closer to being very, very potent then it was at this time last year.”

Despite losing Godsey, Taglia, Sloan and Mascitti on the defensive side of the ball the Huskies still have a large number players returning that featured in the attack last season.

Senior James Stevenson had three goals and two assists last season and junior midfielder/striker Isaac Kannah had two goals and an assist. Those two will be counted on to drastically improve their numbers in order to be successful.

However, before the 2013 season even started, the Huskie attack already had a problem. In a spring game last year leading goal scorer Gael Rivera suffered a torn ACL. Rivera will be out until at least October; depending on his status he may have to take an injury redshirt on the year.

One of the mainstays on the Huskie back line is sophomore right back Charlie Oliver. With all the new faces, Oliver said getting to know his new teammates has been important when it comes to getting everyone on the same page.

“I definitely think, again with communication, it’s been big,” Oliver said. “With everyone not only on the field but off the field too, everyone hanging out getting to know each other, getting to know what everyone’s personalities are like, how they play on the field, how they are off the field — I think that’s helped everyone to get to know each other and understand how we all work.”

In the preseason, NIU has recorded a tie against IUPUI and a 2-0 win against UIC. The Huskies will open up the season with the Wolstein Classic in Columbus, Ohio. NIU will take on Cincinnati on Friday and Ohio State on Sunday.

In those games one thing is for sure: Luzzi will do his best to get the most out of his players.

“Work rate, that was an issue for us last year,” Luzzi said. “We had a couple guys who didn’t want to work. With new guys they have to understand the culture, they have to be brought along, so work rate has been a pretty consistent focus.”