NU Fútbol Update

With football not set to begin their season until this weekend, another fall sport, soccer, is already up and running. The men's soccer team, favored to repeat as B1G champions as Rodger mentioned, opened their season this past weekend at Lakeside Field with a tough match up against the two-time defending Atlantic-10 champion Xavier Muskateers while the women's soccer team already has three games under their belt.

The men's team got off to a disappointing start with a 1-1 draw at home, however, with the way it played out, I bet Coach Tim Lenahan was thrilled to come away with a tie in that one. The Muskateers held a 1-0 advantage for the last 75 minutes and 51 seconds of the game before sophomore substitute midfielder Eric Weberman drew a penalty kick with nine seconds remaining and senior Chris Ritter stepped up and buried the pressure cooker PK to send the game to overtime which would ultimately end with neither side being able to convert a winner. On the surface, this looks like a bad draw at home for the Wildcats to an A-10 opponent, but Xavier is an extremely well coached side lead by former NU assistant and now Muskateer head coach Andy Fleming. Fleming took over Xavier in 2010 after the team won two games the year before and immediately turned around the squad with a 10 win season and A-10 championship followed by another title last year. Coach Fleming (who is now admittedly emulating the NU formula at Xavier) was my assistant coach for three years at NU and he was a guy who really knew how to inspire players and instill discipline especially on the defensive side of the ball, so it comes as no surprise to me that this was an extremely tough game for the Wildcats and they were fortunate to get a tie, even though NU may be the better team and had more chances overall.

Speaking of two-win team turnarounds, we may be seeing just that in here Evanston with new head coach Michael Moynihan's women soccer team equaling last years' win total in their first three games, all on the road, I might add, against quality opponents. NU women's soccer opened the season with a 2-1 victory over Kansas last weekend in Lawrence followed by a come from behind 2-1 win at Miami (OH) this weekend before suffering a 5-2 setback at Dayton after erasing a 2-0 deficit to tie it at 2.

Some news and notes about each squad including my opinion on their new Under Armour uniforms after the jump.

  • It is not time to panic with a home tie against Xavier for the Men’s soccer team. Escaping with a tie under the circumstances should be a relief and provide the ‘Cats with a little momentum for next weekend. They started off the season on a much worse foot last season with a home loss to a team more equipped for Beer Olympics than soccer in Eastern Illinois and things turned out okay...
  • As mentioned, the men’s Soccer team, ranked #20 nationally, has been picked by the coaches to win the Big Ten (along with Indiana). To my knowledge, this is the first time we have ever been favored or co-favored. I briefly made a prediction on how I thought they would do when preseason started (second in the regular season/win the B1G tournament as hosts), but I will cover it more in depth before the start of the Big Ten, er Big Seven soccer season and reassess based on results to that point. For those that don’t know, there are only seven Big Ten schools that have men’s soccer teams: Northwestern, Indiana, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. All 12 schools compete on the women’s side.
  • The women’s soccer B1G preseason poll, ironically, has the 'Cats and Hoosiers as the two teams expected to finish on the other end of the standings in the cellar at 11th and 12th, respectively. I wouldn't put the Wildcats there so quickly though as this team has shown a new resiliency that was not seen last year in their 2-16-1 season. I predicted they would go 8-9-3 using an extremely scientific method.
  • Power Ranked: The Wildcat men's team has four players ranked in Top Drawer Soccer's Conference Top 20 Rankings in Tyler Miller at #5, Lepe Seetane at #8, Kyle Schickel #10 and Ritter at #16. These don't mean a thing...
  • The women's soccer uniforms are cool.
  • I am shocked, but I think Under Armour really dropped the ball on the men's uniforms (at least the home whites). I have a huge problem with the vertical purple trim down the shoulder/arm pit area making the jerseys look like a sleeveless shirt with a white tee underneath or that they are wearing a drawstring backpack. One may argue, that the men's are same as the women's except with a horizontal stripe, but I think stripe across clashes with the vert trim making it look cheap while the straight down stripe looks okay with it. The horizontal stripe a la football could be sweet, but unlike football it disconnects where the number is making it look like they bought the generic champion brand replica or something. I don’t think the team will complain too much, though, as those B1G rings should offset the ugly uniforms and it beats having to borrow Penn State’s away kits like the team had to do back in Coach Lenahan’s first season because NU only had one set. I guess the program has come a long way...

The men's soccer team hits the road this weekend for the Gamecock Classic where they will face Kentucky and South Carolina. The women's side has their home opener against #12 Marquette on Friday at 7 P.M. and then Colorado on Sunday at 1 PM at Lakeside Field.

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