Banuelos goal lifts NIU in men’s soccer opener

Redshirt+junior+forward+Enrique+Banuelos+launches+a+free+kick+in+the+72nd+minute+against+Purdue+Fort+Wayne+Aug.+26.+The+ensuing+goal+was+the+decider+of+a+1-0+victory.

Zak Ahmed | Northern Star

Redshirt junior forward Enrique Banuelos launches a free kick in the 72nd minute against Purdue Fort Wayne Aug. 26. The ensuing goal was the decider of a 1-0 victory.

James Krause, Sports Editor

DeKALB — A free kick from NIU redshirt junior forward Enrique Banuelos gave the Huskies a 1-0 win Thursday over the Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons.

In the 72nd minute, a foul by Purdue Fort Wayne redshirt junior midfielder Michael Teller drew a yellow card and set up a free kick for NIU. Banuelos, who subbed into the game at halftime, took the shot and found the top right corner of the net. It was the fifth goal of Banuelos’ college career.

Banuelos said he got a scouting assist from his teammates, the brothers of senior defenseman Anthony Markanich and senior forward Nick Markanich.

“I was talking to the twins, and we saw there was a gap on both sides of the goal,” Banuelos said. “We thought it was the best option because the goalkeeper was cheating over in the middle, so we decided to go over to the sides.

NIU possessed the ball for much of the contest, stifling the Mastodons from getting many great possessions or shots. On the other end, however, head coach Ryan Swan said he wants to see improvement from his attackers.

“The priority obviously is to get the win, so I’m glad we did that,” Swan said. “For the amount we had the ball, it probably should have been more comfortable than it was. We got some things I’m sure we can work on. I was happy with our ball retention; we were moving the ball well. We just weren’t as sharp in the final third.”

Banuelos said he expects his fellow forwards will find a rhythm as the season progresses. The Mexico City native also noted the battle both teams had with the 88 degrees heat.  

“It was definitely a challenge today,” Banuelos said. “The temperature was really high so both teams had to really push. We got some heavy legs near the end but I think we were able to get in some good positions. We were attacking in numbers and we just got to connect more.”

The Huskies were the aggressors of the first half, getting off 10 shots compared to Purdue Fort Wayne’s one. Still, the game was at a scoreless tie at halftime.

After the Banuelos goal, Purdue Fort Wayne were able to put the pressure on the Huskies with a shot by redshirt sophomore midfielder Ali Nasser. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Martin Sanchez made the second save of the day.

Banuelos had three shots on goal, including another free kick late that sailed over the net. Nick Markanich led the team with eight shots.

The Huskies now prepare for a road trip Monday to South Bend, Indiana, to face the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.