Men’s soccer hopes to upset ranked Wildcats tonight


Karim Darbaki junior forward for Northern Illinois University fights for possession of the ball against Notre Dame August 08, 2012.

By Jacob Onak

In its final non-conference game of the season, NIU men’s soccer will take on the No. 24 nationally-ranked Northwestern Wildcats (10-3-2) in Evanston tonight.

The Huskies (3-8-3) are coming into the match on a four game losing streak, most recently tying Bowling Green, 0-0 last weekend.

Offensively, scoring early has been a problem for the Huskies this season as they have only scored one time in the first half in all 14 games. On the defensive side of the ball NIU has let in nine goals in the first half.

Northwestern on the other hand has tallied eight goals in the first half while only allowing four in the second half.

Coach Eric Luzzi credits his team’s slow starts to the pregame warm up.

“I think probably for our guys, one of the things we recognized at Valparaiso is that we need to be a little sharper in our approach to our pregame warm up,” Luzzi said. “So I think if our guys bring the right mentality to the pregame warm up then it should transfer over into a bright start in the game.”

NIU will be without senior defender Rocco Taglia and junior forward James Stevenson through yellow card suspensions. This will be Taglia’s second suspension of the year after sitting out against Valparaiso from a red card obtained in the Akron match.

With Stevenson out, freshman Matt Pritchard will most likely see an increase in playing time. Pritchard was one of the most dangerous players coming off the bench in the 0-0 draw against Bowling Green Saturday.

Northwestern comes into the game after a 1-0 loss to Penn State. The Wildcats are led by senior midfielder Chris Ritter and freshman striker Joey Calistri.

Ritter leads Northwestern in points with 15 (five goals, five assists) while Cailstri leads the team in goals with six (two assists, 14 points).

According to Luzzi, putting high pressure on Northwestern will be key for the Huskies to come out with a victory.

“They do a very good job of trying to slow the game down and kill the game with their possession,” Luzzi said. “So the biggest thing we will have to do is try and push the pace of the game and make it uncomfortable for them so they can’t settle any kind of comfortable rhythm.”

Even with the tough Wildcats coming up, junior midfielder Sean Totsch said the Huskies will keep their focus on the upcoming MAC conference games.

“I mean they are a really good team and we want to go and get a good result,” Totsch said. “But at the same time we are going to have to focus on the conference season. That is the most important thing at this time right now.”